In contemplating Rembrandt’s painting of The Prodigal Son, do you identify with the younger son or the older son from the Parable of Two Brothers that we know so well from the Gospel of Luke (15:11-32)?
I clearly find myself standing in the shoes of the older brother, the responsible one who stayed. Living a life where I did all the right things, obedient, dutiful, law-abiding, and hardworking. On the outside people respected, admired and praised me as a model person. But beneath it all, there was a dark power that boiled within. Resentful, proud, unkind, selfish, jealous, a persona that remained deeply hidden and growing stronger over the years. I was desperately trying to avoid the pitfalls of sin by being the “good girl” and as a result there was always a heaviness about me. I was unable to have a loving and joyful heart. I was always feeling justified and “righteous” for my actions thinking it’s my way or the highway. I became less free, less spontaneous, less playful, and became lost.
But I came to realize that joy and resentment cannot coexist within the same heart. Self-righteousness, self-condemnation and self-rejection made me feel that I was the most misunderstood person in the world. The moralistic intensity about me built walls and not bridges, furthering the divide from my true nature. This kept me in a place of separateness, a place of comparison and scarcity. I had to feel better than others to make myself feel good.
My son, the father said, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.Luke 15:31
This is a part of me that isn’t very pretty and can be dark, but as I practice temperance in my emotions and let go of the resentment, I release the heaviness. I listen to my body which speaks to me letting me know what I’ve sacrificed for “for being good.” I’m unified in trust of God and His goodness. Practicing the discipline of gratitude leads me down the path of returning home. Home, the safe place where I can own my authentic goodness and belovedness – honoring it in myself and in others. I shed my self-imposed expectations, learn to just be, not needing to prove myself and my worth which lightens my load. I learn to open my heart to fullness, joy, and love and am satisfied. Returning to a place away from which I traveled so far within myself. Transformed by the light, the Beloved on whom God’s favor rests.
Thank you Lord for always letting me come home to rest and love.