Monday, September 12, 2016

The Non-prodigal One

I have not written in some time, since I have been under considerable stress in my personal life. I don't write much when I'm in the middle of my own crises. I have no energy for it, nor do I feel I have anything to offer. But recently, a thought did occur to me which I felt I ought to share.

One of the many things which has troubled me lately was the cry of the non-prodigal son, the one who said, "these many years do I serve thee...yet thou never gavest me a kid." It is not that I feel I have never transgressed, because I know I have. Nor that I deserve blessings, because I know I don't. But it is hard to see how far off the tracks my life has gone. Tracks that I followed only because the Lord asked it of me, and not because I wanted those tracks at the time.

I am surrounded with people who have the life I was taught to accept (and even desire.) But it is a life I'm forever barred from, all because someone I trusted decided to exploit that trust to its fullest extent. I have fought, not only to become strong, but to keep that strength from making me hard. It is a daily battle, sometimes harder than others, but something I have to fight every day. And sometimes I lose.

I do not understand why I can't seem to catch a break. I just need a year or so of equilibrium, of rest, a time when I know that my kids are safe, that I am safe, and that I can heal a little.

But I was looking up a scriptural reference, and ran into something that I think applies.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

I have known for a long time that "strait" didn't mean "straight," it meant "narrow." What I didn't realize is that "strait" can also mean "close, strict, or rigorous," "causing distress," or "limited as to means and resources" and as a noun, "a situation characterized by trouble or difficulty."*

Therefore, a "strait" way is a "difficult" way, a way without resources or means to navigate. This, my distant friends, is exactly what my life has become. I no longer have any expectation of either salvation nor exaltation. Hope, perhaps, but no assumption that if I do XYZ, I'll get ABC blessings. Because while blessings may be predicated upon obedience when received, they are not an effect of that obedience.

Trying until you can't try any more, being so continually exhausted that you can't muster the energy to do for yourself, let alone anyone else, spending nights weeping into your pillow because you don't know what more you could have done, none of these things mean that you will be blessed for your obedience.

But I know in whom I have trusted. I can't choose to do anything less than fight, because I promised I would and because there is truly no other acceptable choice for me. If I fail, I will fail having given it my all. Even if my all is, as usual, not enough. I don't know if the "kid" will ever come for me, but that is not why I serve.

This path of discipleship is not meant to be easy or broad. It is hard. It is hard to the point that you have neither resource nor means to escape. Submitting to a Being who is only believed in and not truly known is beyond difficult when life becomes beyond one's ability to cope. People like to say that He won't give us more than we can bear, but it is not true. He gives people more than they can bear every single day.

The real promise is that He has the means and the resources that we don't. There were two fruits: one sweet and one bitter. The fruit of the tree of knowledge was sweet. But the fruit of the tree of life is bitter. If the cup Christ drank from was a "bitter cup," then so is the cup His disciples must taste.

But in the end, all that the Father has will be ours. Even if we can't see how or why. Even if we know in our hearts that we can never deserve or earn it. It is not bought with pain and suffering. It is not bought with obedience nor sacrifice. It is "without money, and without price." And someday, we will sing together and shout for joy when mourning will be done away and we see the salvation of our God.



*Definitions paraphrased from Google definition and Merriam-Webster

Image: "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt

7 comments :

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Just wanted you to know that I found it touching and insightful.

    You wrote, "While blessings may be predicated upon obedience when received, they are not an effect of that obedience."

    It reminds of a truth I discovered while following a path that was "strait" in every sense you described:

    To prosper in the land means to have what the Lord wants you to have, when He wants you to have it.

    It doesn't necessarily mean to have what you want, when you want.

    So you can be the non-prodigal one and still have far less than all the prodigals in your life, maybe even for your whole life.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know we don't know each other, but I really enjoy your blogging and comments on other blogs. I think you are a light on a hill. It takes great courage to stand for your beliefs, and you are gifted with the ability to express yourself clearly and concisely. Your painful life experiences give your statements value. No one could say that you believe in God because you're spoiled or privileged. You serve God in spite of trials, not because you consider yourself above who suffer, struggle or doubt.

    I check in with your blog periodically, and I was worried since we hadn't heard from you in a while. I'm very sad that you have been stressed. I wish that God would lift your trials and speedily give you the blessings you seek. Meanwhile, you have expressed that you feel below others and that your life is off track. I just don't think that's true. Actually, I think those are terrible lies. Maybe you are surrounded by people whose lives look perfect: high income, lots of kids, high-profile callings, vacations, pretty family picture Christmas cards, etc., etc., etc. Many people do have tons and tons of obvious blessings. And others have almost none. But it's obvious from your writings that you only care about God. And the God we believe in makes you worthy and on track. I really believe this, and I really feel this about you and your life, even though we've never met.

    Thanks as always for writing. We (your internet fans!) love what you say!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "People like to say that He won't give us more than we can bear, but it is not true. He gives people more than they can bear every single day.

    I was told that once, and rejected it out of hand. Firstly, the scriptures do not say anything such that I have been able to find. Instead we are told that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can bear. If we fail, we fall, we fall because we wanted that which we were tempted with more than the things of God, not because we were not capable of withstanding the temptation.
    I would like to modify the last part a bit. God allows things to be put upon us that we cannot bear. One just has to look around the world at the suffering among so many of God's children who have indescribably creel things put upon them by their fellow man to see that.
    I cannot know what your current crises are, but I hope it helps to know you have friends that you do not know personally who are in your corner. Your story reminds me so much of my own wife who went through some similar experiences. She did not think that she was strong or brave. She said that she was scared so much of the time. But she struggled on, and got up each time she was knocked down. That to me is bravery. And that is why I fell you also are brave, even though you feel overwhelmed so much of the time. You just choose to follow God, no matter what.

    Glenn

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  4. Although her words may not apply directly to your situation, she does say what I was trying to say in my previous comment:

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/10/media/session_0_talk_4/5139825732001?lang=eng

    ReplyDelete
  5. We (your internet friends, fans and followers) haven't heard from you in a while. I hope you're doing okay!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you, Angie. I'm okay. Just dealing with less time than things to do right now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, just checking in - hope you're doing okay!

    ReplyDelete

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