Recently, our pastor has been preaching on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which caused me to reflect on the following…
“Then the son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him…” Luke 15:28
How many times have we felt inadequate to speak the loving truth of our powerful feelings to the people who matter the most to us? How many of us, as sons or daughters, as partners, or as fathers or mothers, haven’t had an experience of the verse above? Perhaps it wasn’t our transgression, but a sibling’s that we witnessed. Or more painful yet, our beloved spouse making an irretrievable criticism to our equally- beloved child…. Or words that we spoke in a moment of sleep-deprived, anxious desperation that completely backfired; that were NOT what we intended. Ow!
Our Christian faith is what paves a way forward for us…. a way of forgiveness, first for ourselves, then for others. God’s incredible Grace shows us a way to be gracious in complicated situations that seem irresolvable! God can imagine reconciliation where we can see none. God shows us a way out.
I know this because I have experienced it many times in my life. I have witnessed it happen for others many times, too. (This is a gift of older age!) In other situations I am still waiting; still praying for that reconciliation and healing to be revealed. I will never stop hoping; never stop believing that healing will be possible. We must keep the faith!
As mature adults we are called upon to act like grownups. We can’t lash back with petty, caustic remarks. We must not add fuel to situations that we recognize as being combustible. We are called to develop patience and forbearance. Yet we are, also, called to hold one another accountable; to speak truth to power; to hold fast to the vision of what a person can become, and to be steadfast when our loved one is weak. We are called not to judge, but to love. Sometimes being loving means doing a hard thing… We are called to develop Wisdom, and to support one another in our struggles to grow.
Recently we celebrated a marriage within our family. Bob and I had a wonderful time, but later we learned of individual struggles going on behind the scenes that caused strife. We have, also, had bitterly painful experiences of jealousy in our families. These were situations where we could have chosen to feel righteously wronged, but we developed a test that helped us make a better choice… We asked ourselves, “Is this about a possession, or about a relationship? What matters to us? If we choose to have a growing, long-lasting relationship with this person, then aren’t we called to let this go? Can’t we forgive this?” It’s interesting how quickly bitterness drains away when forgiveness is unleashed!
I have learned to pay very close attention to my emotions. The Holy Spirit often reaches through my busy distractions to grab my attention with emotions. If I ignore them, the feelings grow stronger; sometimes reaching the intensity of agitation. These are times to pause; meditate; to listen for God’s voice speaking to me and leading me forward. The greatest personal and familial healings of my life have happened as a result of my paying attention to these intense feelings. Often great bravery is required, and honesty. Jesus is a great role model for us. I’m so grateful for His example!!
“Gracious and Loving God, we hear your call to us to grow; to mature; to learn to love and communicate more effectively with others. Conflict is especially hard for us and we pray for your continual guidance. May your Spirit lead us into fuller, more joyful relationships, and help us align our actions with your desires for us. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.