Chasing the Prodigal

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Recent news, and stories that hit closer to home, have me thinking of the prodigal. So many of our worldly troubles lead us to drift, or run, or hide, to escape. Our minds or hearts or histories whisper the need to go. And some of us follow. And some of us, left behind in the cloud of questions, chase. If you are chasing a prodigal, I see you. I feel the intense pounding in your chest every time the phone rings. I sense the tension of each hair follicle when someone asks the innocent question, yet? I know the fear when the prodigal is away and you don’t even have an address. You consider driving in the dark scouring parking lots, but you are paralyzed by the vastness of possibility. I understand the void of a prodigal heart, which may share a dinner table, or a bed, or a life, but the distance is palpably wide.

  We have just read Cry, The Beloved Country in AP, and I am struck in every reading by the protagonist’s valiant search for his family members in a violent and bitter Johannesburg. And in the finding of each loved one, his inability to save them. His wrestling with God over the release, His faith for the future, His heavy hold on restoration. I am left feeling emptied and filled, a part of the journey to reach the prodigals.

  And really, we are all chasing prodigals. Maybe not our children, or spouses, or siblings, but someone. A friend who is traveling a dead end road but has closed herself off from communication. A coworker we watch self-destruct day after day, but we feel paralyzed by a distance imposed by cultural propriety.  And we follow at a safe distance, or watch from afar, but we feel powerless.

  God is in the business of pursuing prodigals. Hearts that stray, minds that wander, feet that falter. He is not afraid to follow. There is no propriety that prevents Him from calling even those furthest from Him back to His fold.  And as we run after those we love, we can be reassured by God’s faithfulness.  He does not forget us. He does not become weary in His pursuit. Like the shepherd leaving the flock to find the one, so is God concerned for each of us.

If I ride the wings of the morning,
   if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
   and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
   and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.  Psalm 139:9-12

  If you feel like giving up, rest in assurance that God will not. If your prodigal does not return in the time or manner you have hoped, God already knows. He was with them all along. If you are the prodigal, you are not alone. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

 

The Word of the Year

 If hindsight is 20/20, then I can clearly see my failings and falterings from 2016. Too much sugar, too little exercise; too much yelling, too little grace; too many messes, too few checked-off tasks. We can see the political circus and the social drama. But after 35 New Year’s Eves, I have learned this proven truth: there is no going back. The only opportunity the past holds for you is regret, and you don’t want to set up camp there.

   I’ve also celebrated enough January 1sts to know that it is full of well-intentioned resolutions backed up by lack of action and determination. By February, many treadmills and bank accounts are empty again, despite the desire to lose weight or gather savings.

   This year, I’m avoiding resolutions and clinging to a word, a mantra, that I am confident will help me live a more fulfilled, less stressful, life. You are hanging on the edge of your seat by now, right? Katie is about to reveal an Oprah-book-list worthy idea to revolutionize our lives. Nope. The word is simple, the execution difficult. The word is: wisdom.

  Think of the worst situation you experienced last year. If you look at it in retrospect, likely it could have been avoided or mitigated through your own, or someone else’s, wisdom.  A few months ago, the girls and I ran out of gas about half a mile away from home on a busy road. After numerous unanswered calls to Nick and my parents and some muttered frustrations, I dragged the girls out of the car and we slogged along the shoulder as cars whipped past. I was mad, at my gas tank that failed me, at my husband who I pictured blissfully napping with his phone on silent, at the world for its cursed unfairness. But you know what? I should have filled the gas tank days ago. Wisdom would be prepared and preplanned. This walk home was just a small analogy for all the times I failed to make a wise decision: a fight I found myself in with a daughter that pitted us against each other in ugly ways, a missed opportunity to share Christ with a loved one, a pile of papers stacked up to a tight deadline because I had put them off, all revealed within me a lack of wisdom.  

  I think 2016 was a banner year for revealing the lack of wisdom on a larger scale in our society.  I don’t need to rehash political failings and public embarrassments caused by people’s lack of wisdom.  I don’t need to harp on the public policy decisions that seem to go against every wise form of forethought I can imagine.  And I certainly don’t want to join the ranks of finger pointers who are quick to focus on the failings outside of themselves.  Instead, I am going to focus on the small step of wise choices that I can make.winter

  Wisdom is the intersection of intelligence and integrity, the place where our decisions reveal our inner desire for truth.  Seeking wisdom will make us better workers, better parents, better spouses, better citizens, and better people in general.  I also know that left to my own devices, just like in my car analogy, I will fail.  Wisdom is not an innate part of my makeup.  For me, wisdom has to come from a close walk with Christ, who reveals in a multitude of ways what choices are best.

I want to pray like Solomon:

 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” ( 1 Kings 3:7-14)

     My desire is to have wisdom and discernment, because life is hard, and 2017 is going to be full of decisions and difficulties that I will not be able to face on my own.  James 1:5 promises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  I am clinging to that promise, because this world needs all the wisdom it can get.