The times you pray to God can tell a lot about a person I think.
Take for example the person who needs something and uses God more as a genie that they can go to when they need money or when they need help in a certain situation.
90% of the time they don’t try and look for God in their life, except when they need something.
Or take the other person; the one I can more readily associate with. The person who spends their whole day not looking for God but then when they mess up come running for forgiveness. The person who needs affirmation of their place with God every time they sin.
This, I can see myself in.
But when I do that I have an understanding of God’s Grace and love for me that is totally against what it really looks like. I have a view that tells me that God is most interested in how I act. That the things I do define me as a person and that when I mess up, that identity is called into question.
But this is not the way God works.
This is why the Prodigal Son story is so important. The story of a son who had everything he would ever need but decided it was not enough and took his inheritance and ran away looking for something he thought he needed.
This is me. This is me when I spend most of my days and weeks going about my business but feeling like I am missing something. Not satisfied at work or with my financial situation. Feeling like I could be doing something else or thinking I could be like someone else.
Then inevitably that will lead me to doing something stupid because I’m trying to fix something and that then leads to feeling crap about myself even more. So…I get to the point where I can’t deal with it anymore and I start praying to God to do something, anything.
In those moments I am honest with God. I am low and I need picked up. I need God to reassure me and take me back. And he does. I feel calm, hopeful, confident and ready to change. They feel honest and real. I feel alive…
Until the next morning.
When my fix has ran out and I start to feel the same doubts again. But instead of going to the place I know I can keep going in I try and plod my way through again.
Until the next mess up.
Then it starts again. Round and round in a dizzy circle.
Now at this point you may be thinking, “this blog is getting me down man, I’m leaving”.
Or maybe you are thinking, “but the Prodigal Son Story ends on a high, he returns home and there is a massive party and life is good”. Well that’s the thing; there is no ending to the Prodigal Son story. It kind of just hits a wall and we don’t hear about the Son again. We don’t know what happens the next day or the following week or months or years. If it were a movie it would have a major cliff hanger and we would still be waiting for a sequel or at the very least a reboot starring an actor who looks just different enough from the guy in the first movie.
But apparently that’s it. We don’t get a glimpse into the future.
And I think that’s the point. If we were to find out that he ended up doing the same thing again over and over, leaving home and returning when he ran out of money and food we would think that is a healthy way to live.
Or if we found out that he came home, learned his lesson and was so restricted by making sure he never messed up again that he was constantly watching his every move, we would think that this is what God wants for us too.
To never screw up and behave well.
But this story doesn’t offer that. It just offers an openendness to the reality of life. That it’s messy and doesn’t go the way we think it should a lot of the time. That it’s unknown.
And this is where we can live with a God who doesn’t just allow us to live in a way that ends up hurting ourselves and others over and over. Who just so happens to be the same God who doesn’t watch over us constantly ready to strike us down with lightning every time we make a mistake.
He’s a God who lives with us in every moment good or bad, exciting or indifferent, perfect or messy.
Which frees us to pursue Him all the time.
Whether that’s when we mess up or when we need something.
He is there in those and He is there in everything in between.
He’s not one or the other.
Does he care about how we live or does he want us to live freely even if that sometimes means screwing up?