I’m reading… slowly reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, and am really taking my time with the “The Second Call” chapter, because it’s resonating with me on an epic scale. “Epic” seems like an exaggeration, but it’s not considering everything I’ve gone through in the past few years. Not only am I a year from the big “50,” I’ve also been single for three years, which has been a blessing and a curse, and I’m on a new health kick. But I digress…

The Story

Almost everyone knows the story of “The Prodigal Son.” If you’re a Christian, in the “actively pursuing a relationship with Jesus” perspective, you can identify with the boy who left his home in search of adventure and perceived freedom. I certainly can.

Every time I want to do something that I know is not good for me, I purposefully separate myself from The Father because I don’t want to feel His disappointment or mine, for that matter. I want to do what I want to do without repercussion.

Every time I separate myself from The Father to do my own thing, I suffer. It’s a side effect of sin. (Ugh! Why did she have to use that word?) I don’t like the word “sin” either but it’s a little more effective than using the phrase, “missing the mark,” which is a lot more palatable for those of us with active guilt consciences.

The crux of the story: the son leaves his dad to pursue adventure and winds up wallowing with a bunch of pigs in a nasty sty. At some point, the kid realizes that he had it really good back at the ranch, swallows his pride and heads back. Can you imagine how humiliating he must have felt trudging towards home covered in pig poop with nothing to show for his “adventure” but guilt and shame?

Spoiler alert! Daddio runs out to greet his long lost son, embraces him and puts a nice, clean robe on him. Yuck! I can’t even get into bed dirty, let alone put on nice clothes over a filthy body! But that’s what happened.

The Brother… and More

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot of sermons about the brother’s response. Boy was he pissed! His brother leaves him to do all the work while he’s whoring around in a drunken frenzy spending all of his inheritance, and his dad throws him a party! WHAT?? I’d be pissed too. Now, here’s where it gets interesting AND a little convicting.

When the preacher talks about how the brother should behave – welcome the punk back home with loving arms – we nod our heads in agreement and judge the boy for his resentment. The preacher then goes on to tell us that we should treat our brothers and sisters the same way. Okay, good. We agree, leave church and forget about it.

STEPH, what’s the point? How is this any different from all the sermons and stories about “The Prodigal Son?”

It’s different because I finally get it. Maybe you get it. Maybe this is not a new concept for you, but it hit me like a hammer on the noggin’ this morning.

I do not want to accept that some people in my past have changed. I don’t want to give them the benefit of the doubt because I don’t like them and I want them to be bad so that I have an excuse not to hear their resurrection story. 

Wow! I said it. I just admitted something that I’ve been holding on to for a long time. My justification: they’ve never apologized to me or asked me for forgiveness so how can I be expected to feel anything but resentment and a sliver of anger over how they treated me?

Next Steps

Damn! Now I have to do something about this “revelation.” I can no longer bask in self righteous hypocrisy and live with the expectation that people who have wronged me will do something about it. I can also no longer live with the false assumption that they have not changed.

How can I expect others to accept me as a changed person if I can’t do the same? How can I expect others to forgive me if I can’t extend forgiveness without expectation of reciprocation?

So, here’s the plan.
(Note: I’m using “enemies” because it’s less wordy and has a biblical connotation that’s appropriate in this case. I’m double-quoting it because it seems a little too fierce on its own.)

  1. Pray that God will help me remember that He loves my “enemies” as much as He loves me.
  2. Pray that God will help me accept the fact that He has the power to change my “enemies” just like He’s changing me.
  3. Pray for my “enemies,” and actually speak their names in prayer (tough).
  4. Forgive my “enemies.”
  5. Forgive myself for refusing to let go.
  6. Pray that God will help me be kind to my “enemies” with the understanding that I am not obligated to let them back into my life. (I don’t have to invite someone back into my life if they were abusive and/or tried to harm my reputation. I just have to forgive them and trust that God is doing His thing in their lives.)

Well, that’s that. Time to get on it. 🙂