On the Road Again...
This time, I'm heading for NYC in the morning and then on to Connecticut where I will be the speaker at the women's retreat of our former church, Hope Church in Wilton, CT. I am really excited to see old friends again, to make new friends, and to share some of what I am seeing and learning with fellow travelers on life's faith journey. We will laugh. We will cry. We will walk and talk and sing and break bread together. It should be an absolute blast.
I used to think that the people who led these retreats had their acts together, that somehow they had found a source of holiness and grace and peace that the rest of us mortals could only hope to discover. Someday. In the sweet bye and bye. I no longer think that because I know that I don't have my act together. I am plagued with questions, concerns, doubts, fears, and wonder. What keeps me calm and confident as I go into this weekend's sessions is this: I have come to realize that it's not about me. It's not about what I know or what I think I know. It's about helping other women come to understand what Michael Yaconelli called "God's annoying love for imperfect people." It's about helping a few women understand not only that there's nothing they can do to earn His love, but also, and far more importantly, there's nothing they can do to lose it.
One of my main texts for this weekend's four sessions is the well-known New Testament parable of the Prodigal Son as told in Luke 15. One day, he approached his father and asked for his share of the future inheritance. I've heard it said that in the culture in which Jesus lived, to make such a request was the same as telling his father that he wished he were dead. Strong words, but the father obliged. The son took off with the money. A good time was had by him and all of his newfound friends - until the funds ran out. Sitting in a pigsty watching the pigs eat, the young man came to his senses and decided to return home. He would ask his father to allow him to be a slave. I love the next verse: "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him."
From a long way off, the father saw his son.
From a long way off, the father most likely smelled his son.
And from a long way off, while the son was still miles away, the father had compassion on his son, forgave him, and yearned to welcome him home.
The tendency in churches is to preach about how we have all wandered off and need to return home to the Father. There is another tendency to talk about the older brother, the one who stayed at home and was the hard-working obedient son. Still others admonish listeners to think of all the people that, like the Father, we must have compassion on and forgive.
Here's what recently caught me up short and got me to thinking about this story in a different way: No matter what that young man said or did, he was still his father's son. Even if his father had accepted his offer of slavery, he was never going to be "just a slave." He would always be the son. Loved. Accepted. Part of the family. My question for the ladies will be this: What if we stopped focusing solely on our faults, our failures, our doubts, and began to live as though we are loved, accepted, and forgiven children? That's what we are. How life-changing would that kind of realization be? I've got lots of questions for the ladies, but not a whole lot of answers. I'm okay with that; I hope they are too. For better or for worse, I'm on the road again.
A dear friend said it perfectly this morning: "It's about this begger telling a few other beggars where to find Bread. It's about one fisherman telling another where to cast his [or her] net." So if you call me, email me, or drop by to see me this weekend, there will be an imaginary sign that says, "Gone Fishin" on the door.