This morning, I read through the parable of the Prodigal Son as part of my lectio divina exercises that I have attempted to have every day. If you are like me, you have grown up with this parable. It was the classic, run-to-the-altar parable in my rural-bordering-suburban bapti-costal church, where the whole congregation saw themselves as the prodigal returning home. There is nothing wrong with recognizing our sinfulness. I believe many times in our lives, we are the prodigal who has told his father he is dead to him and wasted his inheritance. However, I think more times than not, we are the other son, the one who stayed and worked hard, and then find ourselves put out by the extravagant celebration for the one who probably still reeked of pigs and alcohol.
I know I am the other son.
If you asked my parents, I was a fairly perfect child. Yes, I had my behavior issues, but in general, I didn’t cause that many problems for them. If I had siblings, I would’ve been the other son, the one who stayed home and did all the right things. For those of us who have grown up in the church, we are the other sons also. Yes, we may have our ‘come-to-Jesus’ moments but let’s be honest, after a few years (if not months), we turn into the ‘other son’ who is saying all the prayers and doing all that he can to earn what the Father is going to give him freely.
So, as I’m reading this, I realize how often I am trying to earn my place in the Kingdom of God. How I am trying to be first– the one who the King calls on– his right hand man. Don’t get me wrong– the journey of sanctification or theosis is up to us participating– but it’s participating in the life of God not in trying to earn God’s grace or favor through our pious acts. Theosis is about surrendering, giving up ourselves to the magnificent, never ending, all engulfing, filling all things love of God that is transforming us and the whole world through the presence of Christ.
So as Lent approaches, I am giving up and taking on to further my own journey of santification. I am giving up self-righteousness. I am giving up acting like I have it all together. I am giving up trying to be enough just in myself. I am giving up my appetites of consumerism that rule my life. I am taking, on however, the view that I am the chief of sinners. I am taking on a desire for humbleness. I am taking on habits and disciplines that lead my heart to Christ. I am taking on grace as my strength to lift me up in my weakness and fragility. I am taking on mercy so that I may give and receive hope. And finally, I am taking Christ’s continual gift to us of the Sacramental life that we experience in His Church through the eucharist and confession.