I’ve been reading Henri Nouwen’s book The Return Of The Prodigal Son (Image Books, 1994). He has a passage in the book which just wrung me out this morning. And, since I like to share Scriptures That Bother Me, I thought I’d also share some “Nouwen That Bothers Me.” Enjoy.
What happened to the son in the distant country? Aside from all the material and physical consequences, what were the inner consequences of the son’s leaving home? The sequence of events is quite predictable. The farther I run away from the place where God dwells, the less I am able to hear the voice that calls me the Beloved, and the less I hear that voice, the more entangled I become in the manipulations and power games of the world.
It goes somewhat like this: I am not so sure anymore that I have a safe home, and I observe other people who seem to be better off than I. I wonder how I can get to where they are. I try hard to please, to achieve success, to be recognized. When I fail, I feel jealous of resentful of these others. When I succeed, I worry that others will be jealous or resentful of me. I become suspicious or defensive and increasingly afraid that I won’t get what I so much desire or will lose what I already have. Caught in tangle of needs and wants, I no longer know my own motivations. I feel victimized by my surroundings and distrustful of what others are doing or saying. Always on my guard, I lose my inner freedom and start dividing the world into those who are for me and those who are against me. I wonder if anyone really cares. I start looking for validations of my distrust. And wherever I go, I see them, and I say: “No one can be trusted.” And then I wonder whether anyone ever really loved me. The world around me becomes dark. My heart grows heavy. My body is filled with sorrows. My life loses meaning. I have become a lost soul
What really strikes me is the statement, “Caught in this tangle of needs and wants, I no longer know my own motivations.” Caught between needing to provide for my family, wanting to see my book published, needing to see my gifts used in the Church, wanting to contribute to the Kingdom of God….“I no longer know my own motivations.”
But I know the One who does. And when I am done running around the distant country looking for what I want to be when I grow up, He is always there to welcome me home with open arms.