What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Non-Drunk and Non-Disorderly Meets a Generous Father

True confessions: I've never been drunk. Perhaps for someone in my line of work, this should be something to be celebrated. But I find it hard to confess in just about any context, even amongst other InterVarsity staff.

It's not that I don't drink--although I didn't until I was twenty-one. And it's not that I am all that righteous or holy.

Partly I was scared and intimidated by the whole scene during the years when I would have been drinking foolishly. And more than that, I'm a classic, first-born son, doing as I was told. I was told that it was wrong to get drunk. That it could become an addiction that could ruin your life. So I didn't get drunk.

This week I'm studying Jesus' story of the prodigal son. Quick summary if you're unfamiliar with it: a man has two sons, the younger son (and of course it's the younger--Jesus totally gets birth-order psychology) demands his inheritance and goes off and parties it away.

He's broke and starving when he "comes to his senses" (one of the greatest phrases in all of Scripture). He returns home to his father who sees him coming, runs out to him and welcomes him home with a lavish feast.

The older son is out working in the field (of course, that's where he's supposed to be! Jesus totally gets birth-order psychology!). He comes near the house, hears the party, finds out what's going on and refuses to come in even after the father comes out and pleads with him.

The older son's response to the father is telling of his heart: "All these years I've been slaving away for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property on prostitutes comes home you kill the fattened calf for him!"

It doesn't require too much imagination to hear the self-righteous indignation in the son's voice.

As I've sat in this story all week long, it doesn't take much work for me to locate myself in it. The older of two sons, the one who's never been drunk at least in part because I was obeying my parents. I don't disobey orders. I walk straight and narrow. Just like the older son.

And just like the older son, it could be easy to be self-righteous about all of it. Which is certainly a temptation for me from time to time.

But what's captured me this time through this story has been the father's response to the son:

"My son," the father said, "you are always with me and everything I have is yours."

With-ness. This is the Father's priority for me. Do I take delight in the fact that in my lack of rebellion I have been on the Father's property all along? Have I stayed at home but run away from my Father anyway? Have I been around God's stuff but neglected to actually know anything about God's heart?

Oh, but the stuff is there, too. And for some reason I'm sinking my heart and prayers this time around by the fact that the son could have thrown the goat-party he wanted for himself and his friends. But he's been too uptight. He's been too workman-like to enjoy the place.

C.S. Lewis somewhere writes that we will be judged as much for the proper and right goods that we don't enjoy as for the ways that we abuse or mis-use those goods. I don't want to come to the end of my life and realize that I could have and should have had a good bit more fun around the place.

My Father is always with me. And everything he has, he's invited me to share in with him. That's a fantastically ridiculous and wonderful gift given to me in Christ. I hope I don't forget to enjoy it along the way.

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