Leaving The Father’s House
I think there are three situations that can speak volumes about our faith.
1. When God allows something we don’t want.
2. Not having something we want.
3. Waiting…endless waiting.
What do all these 3 things that can make us want to leave the Father’s house and never come back have in common?
Sometimes writing in hindsight makes the journey sound neat – that life is about the destination (you know, that imaginary point where we feel invincible and everything is just wonderful) and the journey to get there is the inconvenient, unnecessary part.
This is not one of those blog posts. I haven’t climbed a mountain. I haven’t been able to look back in the struggle to say “Look at how everything has fallen into place. Look at how far I’ve come after all the hard days, long miles and deep waters!”
This is a blog post to say, for all of us who who have climbed only to fall, who have decided the mountain isn’t worth it or who have climbed so long only to feel like they aren’t moving and who feel like they don’t even know how or what it means to climb anymore – I’m with you.
Sometimes I think of the prodigal son. I think of his decision to leave and I wonder why. Was it a a conscious decision he made even after tasting the fullness of his Father’s love and the joy of being in his house? Did he believe there was no need for this love in his life? Was he discontent and dissatisfied? Bored? Confined? Did he feel let down in any way by his Father? Maybe he felt like there was something better out there? Did he feel his identity as the Father’s son was a false mirage? Perhaps he did he not really know his Father’s love? Did he think he would just leave for a little while and come back? Did he always secretly believe his Father would always be there for him when he decided to come back?
So sometimes we choose to pack our faith and our promises and leave, just like the prodigal son.
I’m not here to offer an answer to that, though I wish I could. I also feel that our incessant search for answers in the spiritual life misses the beauty of communion with Him.
Berdyaev writes, ‘the final end of being must be thought of as beauty and not as goodness,’ not fulfillment of law but the synergy of divine and human creative freedom for the sake of the eternal kingdom of Love. Indeed, good that is defined as the opposite of evil contradicts beauty in the same way that the sinful and enslaving structures of objectification contradict the kingdom of God. … Good that functions as the opposite of evil is only a means, a path at best, to the kingdom of God, whereas ‘beauty lies beyond the knowledge of good and evil’ and all of the division and disharmony of sin.
Beauty isn’t necessarily getting it right but it’s definitely coming home with nothing but “‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight”. That reliance and need for Him to take us back. There is something so deeply beautiful about that tested type of love that no theology book can teach. Wrestling with Him, sharing your weakness and the sheer honesty of letting Him see through every lie about “being okay.” When you finally admit “I give up trying. I have no fight left.”
One thing I do know is how we can run searching for cover when in pain. It can challenge all meaning we once placed on the things we cared for and valued, including ourselves and our God. It is a terribly violent internal revolution when we want to run away from everything we’ve ever known, even to the point of ruining ourselves like hyperkeratinsed skin that has numbed all feeling.
When all we’ve felt is pain for so long, we can almost become attracted to the chaos, the fire and the flood. That when anything or anyone else stretches out a safe hand, we flinch. We deny. We run to the darkness and keep ourselves hostage. Then we throw ourselves back down the rabbit hole and block all exits like a really bad case of Stockholm syndrome. It can be hard to be conscious in those moments, long enough to realise we are running with the wolves. But we were never made to inhale the darkness.
This is not a post to tell anyone how they should survive, or to tell you that you should be stronger and that being disappointed in God isn’t “theologically correct.’ Because I know what it feels like to believe that jumping in stormy seas is safer than clinging to the Rock of salvation. To know that God can see you “straining at rowing, for the wind was against them” (Mark 6:48) and remain silent, like a door slammed shut.
This is a post to say that sometimes broken hearts or wounds can sometimes make us feel like we live with secret knowledge and fresh insights into the human condition. Because we can see more clearly than those who are “whole” (i.e., the average, hypocritical churchgoer). We can use that to justify leaving our Father’s house or staying with a distorted image of who He is. We can think “You can’t change. Embrace who you are.” But the gospel says be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:2).
This is a post to say, we are all living under the rubble of the human condition, weak, tired, lonely, waiting for answers, or waiting for the pain to feel like glory. And sometimes leaving is easier when we get so confused and caught up in logic and rationalism and what is black and or white in our ideas of what Christianity means. But “Beauty will save the world,” wrote Fyodor Dostoyevesky. For when we recognise Beauty, we shift our paradigm from sin as merely violating the Law. It can help use perceive sin more rightly, as something that deforms the divine goodness of beauty, truth and love that God imbued in creation. Maybe if we saw with those glasses we would feel less likely to self destruct after we sin or lose hope? Righteousness when equated only with justice loses the full sense of the power of salvation as holiness. But there is a holiness which transfigures and transforms that which has been deformed by sin, restoring the inner beauty, the image and likeness of God in all humans.
This is a post it say it is okay to wander and feel lost, cupping our heart in our hand close to our chest, trying to figure things out. It is okay to talk about how afraid and hurt we are. It is a post to say, just because pain may feel more comfortable than joy, just because insecurity may feel more comfortable than believing in our worth, just because leaving may feel more comfortable than coming home – does not mean it needs to be. When we allow ourselves to feel His love, when we allow Him to get near, then, knowing we are being loved will make us want to be worthy of being loved. And maybe there is just a part of us that wants to see the kind of person we could be, through someone else’s eyes other than our own. Someone who isn’t measured by their fight but the guts to say “I don’t understand what is happening, but after trying to live this life on my own all I feel is emptiness. Things make less sense without You than they do with You.”
It is not easy. But together we can try. Even with shaking hands – just try.
Soon your winds will cease.
“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed