How these two words could crush me so.
Crush me into a smaller version of myself, crush me back into a little girl again.
Crush my throat so, constricted as the tears begin to flow.
And this mended wound is not as mended as I thought.
I am currently in a pastoral formation class at our church. The opportunity to attend came out of nowhere and has suddenly shifted things for me. A few years ago, I took a spiritual gifts test and my top three gifts were administration, discernment, and pastoring. The first two were not surprising to me, but the third was. As I looked over the numbers, only two points kept pastoring from being my top spiritual gift. Me? A pastor? But…..
This has been the pattern of my walk with God, when it relates to activation, to the doing of His word, to stepping into a new role or function. I am alway saying, “Who? Me?!” I have an abundance of “but’s.” Why is that? Why is it so hard for me to understand who I am and then live accordingly?
I have been discovering answers to those questions as He brings me into a new season.
An Education in Identity
So, back to the pastoral formation class. This week, we studied Luke 15. This chapter contains three parables, but we’ll focus on the most beloved – the return of the prodigal son.
How many sermons have you heard on this story? How many of us have been the prodigal son or daughter to one degree or another? I remember the first time this story sunk down into me and I saw myself in the younger son. I was stubborn, determined to make it on my own, and squandering what I had been given. I ended up in the weeds, among the pigs, and hungry. The Lord picked me up, showed me the road home, and welcomed me into His arms when I accepted Him into my heart. But for years and years, that remained the end of the story for me. I ran away, I came back. This perspective was a done deal until a few years ago, when I read the book by Henri Nouwen on the return of the prodigal son. Read it, you won’t regret it.
Much of what we discussed this week in class reminded me of the lessons I learned from that book. But it turned out to be sinking in on a deeper level than even a few years ago. I wanted to share what I learned with you.
“We will replicate who we are – we will treat others how we see ourselves.”
The Younger Son
Do you see yourself as a child of God or his employee? The younger son, once he comes to himself and realizes how far he has sunk, has a little conversation with himself. How many times have I practiced a conversation in my head before it happens?
“‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’”
Notice how the son decided for himself that his position would change from being a son to being a servant. He demoted himself to the place of a servant without waiting to see what his father would say first.
What kind of God do we run home to? Do we come home as a son or daughter? Or do we come home with a trade agreement ready, willing to barter our position for something lesser just in case? Do we think we have to barter with God to be accepted back into His good graces? This is the way a servant hinks, one who serves a harsh taskmaster lacking in grace.
Keep reading! Part 2 here.