Friday, May 31, 2013

Parables of the Lost

(Some posts are just here, I've decided. Subscribe or follow using the google + or rss links to the right if you want an alert when I've posted. I figure you'll find your way here if there's something here you need. Or you'll share it with others if you think it's something they need. Otherwise, I just need to write to that unnamed void that makes me think more deeply about how I perceive things. Helps me process. Helps me...stay in tune.)

I sat down in my New Testament class feeling odd.  How long had it been since coming to a class so unprepared?  Huh. Didn't even know what was assigned.

Because of that, the first slide glowing on the screen as I took my seat had more power to pull me in. It read:   
 "Parables of the Lost"

"How many of you have ever lost something and what have you lost?" my teacher asks. Fellow students name things off: wallets, keys, money. The teacher keeps prodding. He wants a category no one's mentioned.  I know what it is, but I don't trust myself to speak at the moment.  He tries a different angle and the feelings that are all too fresh, swell even more. "What are some emotions you might feel when losing something?" Answers come: Fear. Panic. The teacher asks what kinds of things we might lose that would bring those feelings. Wallets, keys and money are stated again.

He won't give it to them. He waits. Ugh. Fine. "Anguish" I say.
"Okay. Anguish. That's not a common emotion, Kate. What might you lose that would prompt that kind of emotion?"

"Losing someone, not something."

My eyes can't leave the picture that is up on the slide. A new understanding about this familiar parable of the prodigal son distills upon me:  Losing a coin or sheep is different then losing a son.  The coin couldn't find itself, the sheep wander by accident; without realizing or knowing how to come back usually.  But the son chooses to leave. He asks for his inheritance while the father is still alive - as if the father is already dead to him.  He could come back, but for a long time, he chooses not to. He isn't lost because he is dead. He is one of the "living lost."  To those of us that believe in an afterlife, it seems the living lost are the most tragic. We never know if or when they will want to return. At least with the dead, we believe they are waiting for us, anxious to see us again.

Huh. To God, then, there are only the "living lost." To Him, no one is ever lost who has just passed into a different sphere of existence.

Which makes me see how acute that anguish would be for the father in this parable. It wasn't neglect or accident, but choice that caused the separation.

So. I ask myself, have I ever lost someone? Have you? Who are you? Who am I? I guess that depends: am I waiting and watching for someone to return? Or staying away? Or hoping someone won't return? And when I figure that out (if I ever do) what does that say about my choices?

The teacher has moved on while my thoughts have wondered.  I'm brought back when I'm asked to read Luke 15:7.
"I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety-and-nine just persons, which need no repentance."
"Is there anything about that verse that bothers any of you?" the teacher asks.

My eyes are open to something new. At first glance, an answer might be that it seems odd that those who are "just" should warrant no rejoicing in heaven.

But I'm not seeing things flat on the page tonight. It's all in 3D. No, 4D. I find myself saying, "Ninety-and-nine persons thinking they need no repentance would certainly not be something to rejoice over.  That there is only one in a hundred that does feel their life is not in harmony with God - that is bothersome."

The teacher gives a nod of approval. That's what he was wanting. He goes on with his prepared thoughts and the slides.

Wow.  I think of words shared on a blog recently that were written from one friend to another some time ago:

"I am in awe of you. Your courage, your honesty, your beautiful soul.  I am also in awe of the Lord.  He's been helping me see lately the . . . how shall I put it? The gears behind the clock face? How my heart aches with joy . . . to see the Lord knew and He has been working in your life to help you, love you, lead you - to see it come to the point where you can let Him in like never before.  Maybe because I've been more on the periphery and haven't talked with you for so long, I can see a broader view than I would otherwise.I am just so overwhelmed by the glaring evidence of [God's] love and attention for you that stands out because of that long-view.  His wisdom, his patience in waiting for the right moments to teach you what you needed at every step.  To see how you've recognized it and courageously written and shared it with others.  It's just so beautiful . . . I can't express.  I guess it's so huge because it's such a witness to me right now of how much He must love me, too. How much he wants to help me, mentor me - guide me to learn and grow in faith.  That word means so much more to me these days - faith.  It's a relationship word more than a belief word to me now.  It also means power.  The stronger the relationship, the more we allow his power in (Mosiah 3:17,19), to transform us as we all need - it's the purpose of this life, isn't it?"

During the rest of class what echoes through my head is how much I don't want to be one of the "ninety-and-nine."  I've never thought I was perfect. But that Inner Guide is showing me that I have mostly seen myself in the category of the "ninety-and-nine."  And that it's not a good place to be. That was what Jesus was teaching with the parable, I'm coming to believe.

And like so many times before, seeing myself more clearly might hurt at first, but how quickly it begins the real lasting healing.  How effective and loving that mentoring is from my Father.

By the time class is over I walk out feeling like the fresh holes that have broken through the soil of my heart have been evened out and raked smooth and soft.  There can be a more successful planting in such a spot of ground.

I take the quiz, then see an old acquaintance on my way to the parking lot. We stop and talk for a bit. Seeing him was no coincidence. More healing. Water moistens the soil as I drive home.

As planned, Adam and I go out that night. He listens. He nourishes the new seeds of truth that have been planted; nourishes me.

I study these words I find today and those seeds begin to sprout - they are yet more words that...move me:

The distance to “a far country” is not to be measured by miles but by how far our hearts and minds are from Jesus! Fidelity, not geography, really determines the distance!
Mercifully, our errors can soon be swallowed up by resilient repentance, showing the faith to try again—whether in a task or in a relationship. Such resilience is really an affirmation of our true identities! Spirit sons and daughters of God need not be permanently put down when lifted up by Jesus’ Atonement. Christ’s infinite Atonement thus applies to our finite failures! Hence, the pleading of that special hymn:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above. 
It also helps in resisting the tugs and pulls of the world if we, though imperfect, know that currently the course of our life is generally acceptable to the Lord (see Lectures on Faith [1985], 67). With sufficient dedication, those quiet assurances can come!
... the world may actually see us as weak and foolish (see 1 Cor. 1:27). Countering, however, are divine affirmations, including this one: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16).

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