During the last week or so of formation, we’ve been reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. This book has helped open my eyes to the walls I’ve built around my heart—walls I thought I had already knocked down and walls I didn’t even realize I constructed. The Return of the Prodigal Son focuses on the Rembrandt painting of the same name, and the loving, intimate embrace shared between an old father and his returning son. For Nouwen, this painting depicts God the Father and his unlimited love and boundless compassion for each individual, and it prompts a question in my own heart: what will it take for me to step out from behind the walls I’ve built and the shadows they cast and accept God’s invitation to rest in his embrace?
First of all, I have to get over my pride and independence. I have to be humble enough to admit that I desire love. I have to be humble enough to admit that I cannot fulfill the desires of my heart on my own. I have to be humble enough to admit that I need God. I have to be humble enough to let myself be loved.
I have to choose to trust God. I have to trust that when I emerge from behind my walls, not only will someone be there to receive me, but that someone is God, my Father. I have to trust that the love God will give me when I rest in his embrace is so much stronger, and so much more fulfilling than anything I could find behind my walls.
Be A Child
When I was a child, it was a given that what I wanted most I couldn’t give to myself. I wasn’t tall enough to reach the food I wanted to eat in the high cupboards of my family’s kitchen. I didn’t have money to buy any of the toys I wanted. I had to rely on my mom and dad to provide for me the things I needed and wanted.
The same is true now. What I want most I cannot give to myself. I cannot give myself the love I desire, or the brotherhood and sisterhood my heart cries out for. In fact, I have only exhausted myself by searching for it in places and in people who cannot provide it. I can only find it in the arms of God, my Father, who loves me more deeply than I could ever love myself, and in whose arms is the only place I can ever find true rest.
In the last week or so, I have come to the painful yet life-changing realization that I have not been resting in God’s love and embrace. Instead, I’ve been resisting it. In my preoccupation with trying to analyze God, I didn’t trust that God is giving me everything I want, if only I would come from behind my walls and accept what He’s giving me. In my concern with being dutiful and waiting for God’s timing, I forgot to truly be loved in the way He’s loving me now. I forgot that “waiting” shouldn’t be synonymous with “inactivity,” but should instead be defined by opening my heart to every person God places in my path. I forgot that in order to love others, I need to let God love me first. I need to accept his invitation to rest.
What invitation is God extending to you? How is he asking you to allow him to move in your life? In what way(s) can you rest in God’s loving, fatherly embrace?