The Prodigal Year

I’ve been reading and rereading this book for the past few months called The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen, and it might be the best book I’ve ever read. It’s short, sincere and reflects on Scripture and a piece of art that moved Nouwen during a season in which he moved into a community that worked with individuals with learning disabilities.

In some ways I began reading this book at the perfect time. In other ways, I feel as if I had read this book sooner I would have understood the story known as the prodigal son and my own life better. After reading it, I am convinced that prodigal is not a good name for either son in the story. While I believe prodigal is a good description of the younger sons actions of spending his money wastefully, I don’t believe it is an accurate description of the son. A better description is simply: lost.

A better description of this year for me is: lost. Not loss as much as lost. I still have much.

I think we can spend a lot of our resources and spend ourselves just to find we have not been moving towards home. Wastefulness is a perception.

A woman with an issue with blood had spent all she had in hopes to be made well, over the course of 12 years. It felt like a waste because she was not healed, until Jesus healed her and asked for nothing in return. A woman breaks an expensive jar of perfume on the feet of Jesus and Judas called it wasteful.

Eternity determines what is wasteful.

Jesus seeks the lost.

Do I?

This has been a very unpastoral year for me. I waited until the last 2 hours of my credentials lapsing to decide to renew them on December 31st at 10 PM to maintain the title of “Minister.” I don’t know if I panicked or if I felt that it was somehow important.

2 weeks prior to that, I withdrew my name from a ministry position at a church in downtown Charleston, and for the first time really said no to a position in ministry when I had no other immediate options for work. Going into the new year I also stopped reporting to my job at the US Postal Service (though I might technically still be employed) and withdrew my name for candidacy in joining the Secret Service (I’m starting to sound crazy).

I felt powerfully weak and wasteful…

and quite frankly disempowered.

Then I went to Hawaii with Rich (checking my privelege), only to find it very difficult to reconcile with community, myself, and the various brands of Western Christianity that we try to wear.

I have never felt less connected to a local church. I get anxiety going there sometimes not knowing if I will be reminded of my wounds or the feeling that I am only useful for my labor. I am unsure whether it is worse to feel used, unseen, unknown or ignored when all one wants is to be healed so they can have the energy to labor in the certainty of their identity as the Beloved.

To be lost is to forget the love of the Father and to a certain extent it does not matter how we got there or who or what circumstance we blame. What matters is: there is only one way back.

I would catch you up on the other jobs I worked, the other wounds I internalized, and what else I did this summer but you haven’t asked for them. But if you read this far, you are probably wondering: when do you come home? When do you rest in the somewhat certainty of beloved Sonship?

When do we choose a course that would say: “I will change my perspective to see this as blessing rather than hardship?”

The when… or rather how, I think happens as I accept the next step with humble trust, that my steps are being guided, my heart is being held, and the Spirit inside me will continue to bend my heart in affection towards King Jesus.

If this does not happen, it would all be waste.

P.S. I started my first year as an educator teaching 6th to 8th grade Exceptional Children Social Studies, Science, and Math. That’s what I’m “doing.”

On Writing Our Stories: Long Scrolls and Lonely Journeys

Before books and their bindings and blogs, humans told their stories on scrolls. They rolled them out and wrapped them up fairly quickly. Unless we were writing poetry, I think we wrote to be succinct and if we were trying to veil some meaning from the masses, we used metaphor.

I am also convinced that humans wrote to communicate something immediately or widely not necessarily for posterity nor prosperity. Writing as information and instruction and even inspiration must have preceded writing as art or entertainment or industry.

While I believe it’s too late for writing to return to being only one of those things, I find it peculiar how quickly marketing and media has shaped valuing stories in relation to entertainment or personal economy. Many have usurped storytelling and their own adventures and used them as a means to make money, entertain and gain social equity. Hobby has been replaced by hustle.

I won’t stand and judge, but I will question my own perception of whether or not this stolen storytelling and lesuire is enviable. The value society has placed on storytelling seems to have diluted the depth of personal experience for the sake of creating a visible brand whether it be personal or commercial.

This is in turn, I believe has made certain lived experiences that have massive potential to shape individuals character overlooked or forgotten in favor of what has given someone a more instantaneous yield of sociel equity.

In other words, we’ve created shallow people who are good actors when it comes to depth. We can manufacture media in any form that looks even feels deep.

But why does that even matter?

Maybe depth is overrated, and it is better to manufacture it rather than live it. Depth has a connotation of heaviness that does not sell, nor is really desirable to experience. My hope in depth is that hopefully it endures.

Endurance: a term we have mostly relegated to athletes because we only want to hear about individuals who have endured hardship who have also made something out of it. Which is mostly another way of saying we only want to hear about it if it has become a marketable success story.

Never waste a good trial.

Humans have become more peculiar, myself included with the things we share through social media. I think the peculiar part of sharing is the “why” we are sharing it.

Do I hope my sad or happy experience will inform, inspire, instruct, entertain, earn some type of reward or do I put it out there to arrive at a sense of feeling less alone either through mutual understanding unmitigaged approval in the form of a tap or click on a screen?

People can have multiple reasons for doing things.

Truth be told, I have at some point written or shared portions of my story for all of the above reasons. I think at the core of all of them is the awareness that life feels long and lonely at times, sometimes without any real clear reason for feeling lonely. It can feel lonely when you are surrounded by people or not, married or unmarried, have no children or a dozen. There is a part of the psyche of suffering that has to endure certain parts of the journey or lived experience alone or more accurately, under a seemingly distant gaze of an imminent God.

Sometimes it feels like God is just watching us flounder about failing and flailing with hope under another weighty disappointment, amidst another broken relationship, in the fog of an impossible to renew mind waiting to see what we will do.

In living, I wonder how much of this scroll I have to read before I get to a point where we get to a happy middle, where there is enough of a break in the conflict to catch my breath and not waste an opportuntiy to rest. It is also clear that the weight is not on my shoulders. People are not thinking about me or you all that often. People have already forgotten most of our sins and mistakes and if they are thinking about your mistakes, it’s probably just one very particular one that they refuse to let go. Maybe it was traumatic, maybe it was repetitive and has colored the entire journey. Maybe the world needs to know or maybe no one does other than God.

I don’t know and maybe when we tell our stories, no one needs to know entirely why.