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.
Previously posted Dec. ’08
When I lost everything I owned in the way of the material three years ago and headed back to Canada, I was referred to as the Prodigal Son. People prayed for my return to Christianity.
It didn’t happen and I am further than ever away from it. Material things aren’t important to me. This was not the first time in my life I lost a home and personal items.
I still smile and can enjoy the day. I don’t harbor resentment as it destroys you. I forgive people realizing no one is perfect. I try and help if I can.
I wrote three books, one almost got published. It doesn’t matter to me if they do or not. I know I wrote a book, that is good enough for me.
Once these desires of self fulfillment are kicked out, the realization of humility sets in and nothing is quite as important as you thought they were.
If someone in my household is sick or in trouble, I do my best to help them out.
Life still goes on, the world turns and for some reason I woke up this morning early enough to see the sun rising, that as well as the night brings me peace.
I want to suggest you read a book called “Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thought On Christian Spirituality” by Donald Miller. He has a great way of describing why he likes Jesus but not Christianity, and has a great chapter called “Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry.” If you are one who doubts God, doesn’t trust “organized” religion, sees the huge pain that has been done in the name of Christ, thinks WAY outside the religious box and likes people who authentically dedicate themselves to follow Jesus without religious paraphernalia, you’ll like this book.