In the Hand of God
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!" Luke 15:17 NIV
I wake up to the blessing of a snow day, and reach to check for messages on my phone. I run across an article, and after reading just a couple of paragraphs I am struck by a truth. I cannot finish reading the article because I lay there almost paralyzed by its words. How does a person become so out of touch with everything and everyone around you that you forget the things or people who are most important? I know how that happens. You settle for the pigsty.
As a firstborn, I have never cared much for the story of the Prodigal Son because I understand how the brother felt. However, today I find myself identifying with the Prodigal himself. In Luke 15, the prodigal finds himself in a place where he is not happy, but must stay in order to survive...or so he thinks. Every morning he awakens only to realize that it is simply another day when he must go and work among the pigs.
Being forced to a level where he had to work with pigs was humiliating for this young man. Not only are pigs filthy animals who find pleasure in wallowing in their own feces mixed with mud, but he was a Jew and pigs to them were unclean in a religious sense as well. This young man who once experienced the luxury of living in his father's house, now found himself so hungry that he would have welcomed the chance to eat the slop alongside the pigs in an attempt to satisfy his hunger. The Bible doesn't say how long he remained in this state, but it is clear to say that one day he came to himself. One day he came to his senses and realized that there was a better life outside the pigsty.
This morning I came to myself. I realized that not unlike the Prodigal, I too am experiencing life in the pigsty. I have at some point accepted that existing in the pigsty is the only way I can survive. I have grown accustomed to life among pigs. Rather than avoid the muck and the smell, I find myself climbing daily into the pen with the pigs, mired up in feces and mud, and breathing in the scent of their filth. Day in and day out, I continue to live in this existence.
And then just as the ProdiIgal, I remember my Father. I remember what my life used to look like when I lived in His house. I remember what it was like to hear laughter and see a table filled with nutritious food. I remember what it was to be happy...I remember joy. I see myself deep in this mire, surrounded by pigs covered in layers and layers of dried feces and mud, and I remember that if I could just see my Father then life could be better.
And so I start the struggle of climbing out of the pigsty, gently raising my feet one step at a time from the mire in order to make my way to the fence. I had failed to notice just how far into the muck I had allowed myself to venture. The distance to the fence can seem so far that you almost decide it might be easier to stay with the pigs. But I cannot continue to stay here in the pigsty because I am hungry. I have grown so hungry that I was almost willing to eat the slop alongside the pigs. But this hunger cannot be satisfied with slop, this hunger can only be filled at the table of my Father.
And so I make my way out of the pigsty. I am on my way to feast at my Father's table. I know that the blessings awaiting me are more than I could imagine and that He is waiting. He has so much more planned for me than to toil among the pigs. I have waited much too long to partake of the blessings from His table, but I am on my way.
(This was first published as a note on my Facebook page on July 7,2011. I was asked to consider reposting it.)
And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. Mark 8:29 KJV
Kristen and I were listening to the radio on our way to piano lessons this morning. I turned it on and heard just a little part of a sermon. I don't even know who the preacher was, but it doesn't matter. He compared how we believe in Jesus to that of a Build-A-Bear Workshop. He didn't really go into detail and concluded the sermon, but it got me to thinking. If you've never been to a Build-A-Bear Workshop, they're all about the same. You can pick from an assortment of animals and choose the one you want to make. Yours may not even be a bear. You might make a cat, dog, monkey, etc. Then you can choose how you stuff it and even add some cutesy stuff to put inside. Then you can buy clothes to dress your animal. You end up with your own version of what you would like your stuffed animal to be. It's funny to me how many people go into Build-A-Bear and come out with a cat or a monkey and not a bear at all.
We're like that with Jesus and God. We go into the Bible and pick out the parts we like and we put them together and build ourselves a god that we can live with. You see that isn't God. You don't build a God out of the pieces you like and leave the rest. God is God. He is the God who created the universe. He is the God who loves us enough to send His Son to die for us. He is also the God who wiped out entire cities at a a time because He was disgusted with how they were living. He is also the God who will proclaim to many to depart from Him into an everlasting Hell because He never knew them.
There are so many people who think they can go to Build-A-Jesus. They go into church or into their Bibles and pick out what they want. Usually they like the "Called the Children Unto Him" model or the "Feeding the Multitude" model. The "Tunring over the Tables" model isn't a favorite, nor is the "Great Commission" model. Then it's time to stick in the parts you want Him to be stuffed with. Usually a little "ask and ye shall receive", coupled with some "God wants to bless you" and a little dab of "riches in Heaven". Then it's time to close Him up and dress Him. Most people pick the "Royal Robe and Crown" outfit and not usually the "Crown of Thorns". Then they're all ready to pick up the newly created Jesus and carry Him out to use whenever it is convenient. The problem is that just like at the Build-A-Bear when people come out with an animal that doesn't look so much like a bear, most people come out of "Build-A-Jesus" carrying something that doesn't really look that much like Jesus at all. It's more of a creation of sorts that they can pick up or put down as they wish.
The saddest part to me is that so many people are so happy with their Jesus that they made at the Build-A-Jesus that they miss the point of who Jesus really is. Some will even carry their Jesus they made with them to judgement only to figure out that they didn't even have something that looked remotely close to Jesus. When they figure it out, it may be too late.
I hate I didn't hear the rest of that sermon and who knows? Maybe that two minutes I heard of it was the only part where he mentioned the Build-A-Bear concept, but it really made me think. I know some people who have been to the Build-A-Jesus and seem to be very happy with the things they've built, but I don't recognize the likeness to be that of Jesus. It's scary and sad all at the same time to see people who think they're in a position to receive God's blessings and yet the reality is that they wouldn't recognize Him if He walked into the room because He doesn't really look like what they made Him to be.
It has been my experience that Jesus is the perfect picture of love. It is accurate that He is always waiting with arms outstretched to meet us, but it also my experience that He will ask you to leave your comfort zone. He will ask you to do things that you would rather not do, and sometimes He will ask you to walk through the deepest darkest valley. He sometimes asks us to stretch ourselves almost to the point of breaking. It is in these times that you find the real Jesus. He will be the One that gives you the strength to keep breathing. He will be there to walk the valleys with you and will see each and every tear. You will find that although the Build-a-Jesus carries less risks and brings a simpler life, it is in knowing the real Jesus that you grow in faith and learn to trust Him completely. So I challenge you to put away who you have created Jesus to be, and get to know Him more completely. Ask Him to reveal His true character to you. Ask Him to let you know Him better. Develop a personal relationship with Him just as you would a friend.