Saturday, October 15, 2011
i am the older brother
Recently at church, our teacher taught on the story of the prodigal son. At the end of the lesson, he said that the following Sunday, we'd discuss the prodigal son’s older brother. I immediately knew I was in trouble I'd get a lot out of it.
While the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about the older brother, what it says speaks volumes to me – because I can all too easily see myself in him. The older brother was the responsible one. The dependable one. The goody two shoes. He likely did what he was told, and never caused his father any trouble. What parent wouldn’t be proud, right?
But the Bible tells us that while people size us up by our actions, God looks at our hearts. (Gulp.) And that, my friends, is what turns the whole story (of life!) upside down for me.
Because I don’t know about you, but I tend to view life through lenses of doing, rather than being. Every day, my nature vies to prioritize tasks over people. Check lists over community. Running, rather than resting. Tangible accomplishments over the unseen and the eternal. Doing things for God, rather than fostering a relationship with God.
Responsibility, over relationship . . .
Pursuing good, while missing out on best.
So what’s the matter with being a responsible individual and accomplishing things? Absolutely nothing.
However, when I allow those accomplishments to be what drive me in life, what thrills me most, I miss out on something greater. I miss out on experiencing the eternal, the immeasurable. And all the while my identity and security and perceived acceptance can subtly slip into being dangerously defined by the things that I do, rather than who I am. Or more accurately, who Christ is, in me.
Just this past year, God allowed me to go through a long period when I literally couldn’t do. A sudden health crisis left me bed-ridden and unable to take care of myself at all for more than six months. And now, more than a year later, I’m still limited in what I can and can’t do. And let me tell ya, friends – Have I ever wanted to DO! But do you know what God has wanted for me during this time? He’s simply wanted me to BE. To rest and revel in His presence.
It’s hard to rest, isn’t it? Because at the same time that we struggle to prioritize being over doing, our culture shouts lies like these about value:
Resting is a waste of time . . . Productivity is always priority . . . Sacrifice relational sensitivity for the sake of efficiency . . . And your value is determined by your contribution to society.
In our do-more society, we’re practically obsessed by doing.
Take a moment to consider the following:
Think about the myriad of things that you do in your life. Everything you do each day at work, at home, with family, friends. All of it. If you were to put it all in list form, it would be a lot, wouldn’t it?
Now I want you to imagine not doing any of those things. None.
And what are you left with?
That is one difficult question, friends. But thinking through it helps me remember who I am apart from what I do. Because if I am not able to recognize my personal value without any association of doing something, then I am at risk of elevating responsibility to an unhealthy level – and missing out on the extraordinary in life.
Again, doing is good. And so is responsibility. They're important! But what ultimately matters is why we do what we do. And therein lies what we truly believe about ourselves, and God.
So here’s the truth that God is ever so patiently establishing in my head and heart, friends: Because I am made in His image, I have immense value whether or not I ever accomplish or achieve anything. There isn’t anything that I can do to add to it (or take away from it).
So the question is – Will I have the guts to rest while everyone around me sprints? To prioritize relationship over responsibility? Or will I settle for merely being responsible and accomplishing great things?