The Shortest Sentence

The shortest sentence:

Go!
A two letter command…
The potential, immeasurable

Go ahead, go forward
Go in any direction
Go where no one has gone before

Go to the shop or go to work
Go to school or go to church
Go where you’re needed

Go on an adventure
Go on a mission
Go on a trip of a lifetime

Go with what you can carry
Go with the clothes on your back
Go with the Prince of Peace

Go it alone
Go with friends
Go with God

Go with purpose
Go with passion
Go with gusto

Go into a hungry world
Go proclaim Good News
Go make disciples

Get up and
Go!

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash

Struggles of the Good Son

In part two of The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen focused on the struggles of the older son. We think of the younger son as the one who was lost. He was the one who left home and squandered his inheritance on wild living. The older son was faithful, hardworking and obedient. The truth is both sons were lost.

The younger son’s sins are easy to see. He was greedy and self-indulgent. He spent money recklessly. The older son’s sins are not as obvious. We know he was obedient. We can assume that he was respected and admired as a good man. When his self-indulgent brother was lavished with a huge welcome home celebration, he became angry, resentful, and jealous. He felt unappreciated.

What does more damage? Sins of the flesh or sins of the heart? Lust and greed or anger and resentment?

Nouwen pointed out that you can be lost while still at home. Even righteous people struggle with sins of the heart – anger and resentment, judgment and condemnation, bitterness and jealousy. This way of being lost is “closely wedded to the desire to be good and virtuous.” Sins of the heart are the dark underside of virtue.

The older son worked hard and did not get what he thought he deserved, certainly not compared to his younger brother. As a result, he became self-pitying and envious. He felt no joy at his brother’s return.

I can relate to the older brother’s response to his father. I’ve often complained and grumbled about unfairness, in my heart if not out loud. I can relate to his feelings. I’ve also felt unappreciated, rejected, and overlooked.

Nouwen noted that in this world, people are compared and ranked as more or less successful, more or less attractive, etc. How much of our sadness or happiness comes from comparing ourselves to others? I know that comparing myself to others often makes me feel like I’m not good enough.

We are so conditioned to measuring ourselves against other people, it can be hard for us to accept that someone loves us unconditionally. God loves each of us completely. He gave us our unique gifts and understands our shortcomings.

Nouwen told a story about a young man who was loved and admired by everyone who knew him. One critical remark from a friend sent him into a deep depression. His self-esteem was so fragile, he believed his friend had broken through the facade and had seen the despicable man he really was.

Even people who outwardly seem to have it all can feel insecure inside. Beneath the self-confidence and arrogance there can be an insecure heart that isn’t as sure of itself as the outward behavior leads one to believe.

Nouwen wrote that for those of us who struggle with sins of the heart, trust and gratitude are the keys to returning home to the father. “Trust is that deep inner conviction that the Father wants me home.” Trust that God loves us completely as we are. We are worth finding.

Gratitude is the opposite of resentment. When we choose to be grateful, we acknowledge that all that we are and all that we have are gifts from God. Gratitude for what we have helps us see that our brothers and sisters belong to God as much as we do.

Nouwen’s reflections on the challenges of the good son remind me to pay attention to my feelings. When I catch myself judging, condemning, or resenting someone else (as I surely will), I should stop and remind myself that God loves each of us unconditionally. He loves me completely even though I am flawed in so many ways. He has forgiven me. His amazing grace is available to all of us! We are not rivals.

Praying for Another Country

I’ve prayed for my country, the United States of America, as it has become increasingly divided over the past decade or so. In January, I joined other Christians in praying for our country for fifty days, using readings from the Psalms as inspiration. Now another country is in my prayers every day and my worries about my own country have receded into the background.

While I was praying for my own country’s democracy, the people of Ukraine had even more reason to worry as Russia prepared to invade their country.

A friend of mine, a journalist in North Carolina, knows a woman from Ukraine, Maia Mikhaluk. When the war began, he started sharing her Facebook posts and I follow her now. She shares her faith, her fears, her joy at the birth of her granddaughter. And interestingly, she also uses the Psalms as prayers for her country.

The war in Ukraine reminds me to put my own country’s challenges in perspective. The U.S. is not the center of the universe! The U.S. shakes and rattles from internal rumblings but the whole world groans!

He’s got the whole world in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Lord, your praise will always be on my lips. From heaven, You look down and see the struggles of all mankind. I pray that the people of Ukraine will continue to be strong and courageous. You are our hope and shield. Father, you love righteousness and justice! Stop the evils of war. Foil the plans of the wicked. Comfort the suffering. Amen.

https://www.facebook.com/maia.mikhaluk