I will be leading worship at a young adult retreat in a few weeks. The theme of the retreat is Welcome Home, and is based on the Prodigal Son story from the Gospel of Luke.
As I reflect on the story (with help from Henry Nouwen and his reflections in Return of the Prodigal Son), several opposing words/thoughts come to mind:
pride/humility, fear/trust, question/mystery, isolation/communion, desperation/hope, conversion/mission, busyness/peace, emptiness/love
This really is the question that really confronts me as I consider this story and Nouwen's reflections: "Do I, Pat, know that God forgives me and will do ANYTHING to provide me a better life than the one I am living now?"
The answer to this question is arguably the most important question we have to answer in our earthly lives.
I'm guessing that the prodigal son had to answer it. If he didn't (although, it probably took him a long time to answer it), the story would have turned out much differently.
I'm also guessing that the older son had to answer it. It seems like he may not have known the answer to the question, though, since he was so busy trying to manipulate God's love.
It's easy for me to consider my superficial answer to this question in my own life. I know that I'm supposed to say yes, but, I have to remind myself that yes opens the door to God doing/allowing whatever is necessary to get me to surrender to His love: loss of money, loss of family/friends, loss of title, loss of status. And, I don't know about you all, but the prospect of these things happening is not pleasant.
God, my Father, WORKS to earn my love.
However, my yes requires me to swallow my pride (in humble surrender) AND AT THE SAME TIME be loved (in humble surrender) by a Father that loves without reservation. This love must be celebrated first in communion with Him and then with all those brothers and sisters that He blesses me with in community.
And my yes also requires me to be re-fashioned by grace so that my thoughts, words and deeds are an unmistakeable proclamation of my sonship with my Father. It is this proclamation that not only changes lives, but makes my own life ridiculously full and complete and joyful.
So, for me, I think that I need to "re-know" God's forgiveness again...and again...and again...