The Prodigal Son's Siblings
Catchy title, huh?
I need to preface quickly that my brother is not the Prodigal Son. And although he did get a cell phone the same time time I did (but he’s 3 years younger), and his curfew was a lot later than mine — he’s definitely not a prodigal child.
Although the cell phone thing just brought up another wave of emotions, but it’s fine.
This is about all of us who’ve desperately tried to cover our scars and hurts, all while getting frustrated at the “sinners” who’ve come back, been really honest and get all the recognition. Those of us who get mad when someone comes back to the faith, while it feels like we’ve been holding down the fort the whole time. The ones who’ve gotten really good at playing the game, giving church answers, and being offended when someone else breaks that mold.
As the oldest child, oldest grandchild and a girl, for a large part of my life I was the first to do all the things. First to go to school, to play a sport, to go to college, to move away, etc. I like to say I’m a first born ENFP. Because I’m not type-A, but when it comes to doing the right thing or looking to part, I can easy mold into that. There’s this extra responsibility to have things together.
Especially when it came to church. I knew the answers to give that made me look like everything was okay, even if it wasn’t. I knew that the more honest you were, the more weird you were, and I did not want that. I wanted to fit in, be normal, and learned the answers or tactics that kept me in that seat. And unfortunately that crutch followed me all the way through college.
Early into my time in Atlanta, I ended up leading small group. It was the first time I’d really led anyone my age, but I was ready. I had led, been apart of small groups since I was in elementary school, and felt perfectly capable to walk others through a study.
But I was very unprepared for honesty that followed. Two of the girls in the group were just getting back into church. Two others had never been apart of a small group before. And not long into the group, they opened up about real struggles, real questions about sin, and how far they felt from Jesus.
They talked about their weekends and what all they did. They talked about boyfriends. They told me things you weren't suppose to tell your small group, much less the leader.
Hello! Don’t you guys know the vocabulary? If you're doing things with your boyfriend, then tell the group your “struggling” so no one ask questions. If you feel bad about going to the bars every night, tell me your worried about the crowd your hanging around, not that you feel guilty about the 7 shots you consumed.
And for the love, if you didn't do the lesson, at least pretend like you know part of it - don’t openly admit you never looked at the chapter. This is a place to come and look very shiny and pretend you did the study so you won't get in trouble, right?
Wrong. So completely wrong.
That was the beautiful part, they didn’t know the churchy answers or the perfectly crafted ways to avoid talking about sin. They didn’t know the unspoken ( and untrue) rule that you need to clean up your story up before you could talk about it. They didn’t know any of these “rules”. Honestly was all they knew. Hard questions were all they had to give.
And as the leader, my barrier of vulnerability started crashing down.
Revelations 3:16 says “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” This verse took on a new meaning for me that year. I realized I was trying so hard not to rock the boat, and not get too deep into my story or sin, that I wasn’t even being truthful with it anymore. I never realized how bright and spotless I was trying to make my self look to the Lord, and it took girls who knew nothing but honesty to show me how off my thought processes was. They taught me what it was like to actually come before the Lord with my sin. Not in the package with the pretty bow where it looked acceptable from the outside. The real raw stuff.
If your like me, you've spent years perfecting sentences and twisting words to make your sin seem “less”. I still fight the urge to have everything clean and polished before I bring it before my Savior and it’s hard to be honest with where you are.
But that’s what the Lord wants. The doubting questions, the sin struggles, the apathy towards grace - all of it.
He wants to hear our hearts. The hard, messy parts included.