Control freaks. We all seek to control our circumstances in one way or another. When my parents separated, I became the “responsible” older brother. I panicked inside, so my response was to control what I could by clamping down on everything around me. By night, I acted out more openly through partying. I attempted to control my pain by looking for happiness at the bottom of the bottle, in another’s eyes. It was at the core a rebellion against God aimed at my taking control from the one who had obviously failed me.
I’m still that older brother. In fact many Christians I know are, but more so when it comes to our faith. I often do “good” in order to turn around and hit up the cosmic ATM, getting good out. This cosmic ATM is how I view God all too often. I feel that because I have done x amount of good, I should expect x amount back with interest. This isn’t faith or even a religion, but slavery. It is a slavery to the gifts of God. To a God who says His thoughts and ways are higher than ours, this approach only leads to bitterness and disappointment.
I am sorry. For those of you who have gotten an air or the very brunt of bitterness and disappointment, I could not be more sorry. I want you to know that here and now. For those of you who have received it from other Christians, I am just as sorry. God never meant for a faith like this. Jesus never wanted followers like that. If you’ve felt looked down upon, marginalized or in any other way mistreated or abused by the Church, I’m sorry. It’s not enough, but words do not express my feelings here.
Lost. Read the Prodigal Son and you’ll see (without going too deep into this story) that both brothers are in fact “lost” or missing the point. What is harder to see is that the story ends with the pious older bother not returning to the father. This fact is often overlooked as Jesus was probably telling the story to show the religiously devout that their blindness, their “lostness”, was far more dangerous than that of the younger brother. Two thousand years later, I fear we’ve not heard this message.
Found. You’ll note the younger brother returns to his father’s abundant grace and is thrown a massive party (probably the biggest the father ever threw). While the younger brother told the father he was dead in his eyes, the younger son was forgiven and his transgression forgotten. If you at all identify with this brother, this story goes to show there is more than hope for you in God’s eyes. You may be wayward as I know I have been, but there is a way back. At the end of that road, there is the Father waiting anxiously to run to you (unbefitting of a propertied man), hugging you joyously, giving you his own clothes and throwing you a great feast. He’s been waiting for you. Come home.
Despite what we’ve been told, all are lost. We’re all looking for ways to control the world around us. We’ve all been affected by people trying to control us in that effort. In the end, we need to realize that we alone cannot control such a complex world and we need some help. He’s been waiting. For the older brother and the younger, He’s desperately awaiting your return. For what are we waiting? Why can’t we give up being control freaks?