Saturday, December 19, 2009

What does the Prodigal see when he looks at me?

One of my all time favorite songs is a Vineyard songs from the CD called "Fathers house". It is about 15 years old, I guess. The whole CD is about the Prodigals that are out there still searching, and the Prodigal in all of us. I was just remembering some of the songs today.

How easy it is to forget that God's heart is for the lost and the seeking. How easy to get so wrapped up in the vain pursuits of increasing our own "goodness" while so many of His precious children are yet wandering in darkness. I am guilty here.

I was reminded of a conversation that I had in the past. An acquaintance and I had occasion to spend more time together and get to know each other better. As we became friends, this person confessed to me that they "had me figured all wrong". That I was not like the others.
They told me that they had this whole idea of what a Christian, conservative, homeschool mom would be like and they had put me into that box when they first had met me.
I remember being so shocked that they would think that of me. After all...I am a little rough around the edges and pretty transparent with my failings as a Christian. I know that I am not perfect, thank God.

My heart just broke when I heard them tell me what they had thought I would be like. Or what they thought I would expect of them. I grieved for the lost time. Lost to unreal expectations, lost to fear, lost to lies.
I grieved for the shame and fear that I saw so exposed before my eyes.
They thought that they had to hide who they were around me. Not because I ever did anything to make them feel that way, just because I am a Christian. There was a wall between us that kept me out.

They thought that I would judge them for things in their life that were not "Christian" enough. They thought that I would shun them if they slipped up and used colorful language or if they had a drink or a smoke. They were terrified for me to see who they were. Hiding in the dark, waiting for me to throw stones.

This person is an honest seeker. Looking for the love of Jesus and having a hard time finding it among the Body. I know that I am not responsible for what someone else thinks, or how they perceive things. I just could not help but wonder how many times I have come off as "too Christian" for someone to approach me.

I am glad to say that we were able to build a bridge between our hearts, for however brief our time together was...that bridge will always be there. With compassion, love and acceptance I can pave the way for Jesus to walk across that bridge from my heart to another.
Acceptance of a person does not mean that we condone sinful behavior. It is not my job to do that. Not to change them, lecture them, convert them or judge them. My job is to love them. Love them when they are unlovable, when they fall apart and when things are on top of their game.

My own conversion took place in this way. I was also sitting in the dark, ducking stones from well meaning Christians. Sadly, many whizzed by my head a long time. I remember feeling so outcast and so angry. I wondered why I would want anything to do with a God whose followers would treat me that way.
The righteous ones who told me all about how wrong I was, and how bad I was...only pushed me farther from Jesus.

Finally I met some Christians who understood grace, redemption and compassion because they could remember what it was like to be chained in the dark, outcast and ashamed. They took me in where I was and loved me to the Lord.
What a gift they gave me. I never felt condemned. I was never told that I was not good enough. I was not told that I had to change anything. They let the Holy Spirit handle all that. They just loved me. Unconditionally.

I wonder if in fear have I shut out the Prodigals in my life?
How many times do I hear Christians make excuses for building protective walls between themselves and the world? If I had a dime for every time....well, you know the rest. How many times, did I follow that same thought pattern and hide away from the hands reaching out all around me? No thank you, I can't help you today...I am late for bible study...or whatever.

I think that there is so much fear that we will be polluted by the world that we shun it, judge it and hide away from it. This reminds me of the parable of the good Samaritan.

The Gospel of Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus then replied with a story:

“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Levite walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

The Priest and Levite passed by the wounded man on the road for various reasons. They were God's own servants, too busy with temple (church) business, too scared or just too unwilling to touch the untouchable. The pagan Samaritan stopped and helped and went above and beyond.

I think that as a Christian, there can be fear to step outside of the safely constructed box of protection that the Church offers. By Church, I do not mean the building or the congregation. I mean the whole deal. The activities, the works if you will, the attitudes, the groups, the people, the things that we do, say and pretend to be in order to feel like we are OK.
Do you know what I mean?

People are all along the roads that we walk on. Lonely, hurting and confused.
There is so much fear that I hear, the fear of getting polluted by the world. I believe that God is bigger than that. He who is in you, is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4)

The One who is more than enough is inside of you. If you are in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the One who is more is inside of you. Because of this we have overcome. To hear many Christians talk, you would think the one who is less is on the inside of them.

There is no one who can change what I believe. They can say and do what they want. My faith is secure. Wild horses could not drag me away. Seeing someone who is not following God cannot make me do the same. My children seeing me love someone who is not a Christian will not make them fall off the path. My God is a big God. I am not afraid of those who do not believe what I believe. They no longer threaten me.

When I talk about reaching people, I am not even talking about things that I used to do with God. Reaching the alcoholic, the homeless and the abused. Ministering in the local church tirelessly or volunteering in a worthy charity. Those things are not possible for me right now. I have small children, I can't be doing the things that I did then. At least, not for awhile.

I CAN love and accept those who cross my path. I can befriend the lonely and love them where they are. I can choose to not fear or judge those who are not like me. After all, no one but God sees their heart. I can smile at the grocery clerk, the one with the hard eyes. I can befriend those who are not like me.

Here is a challenge I asked myself today...How many non-Christians are in your life? Not even many Christians that are not just like you, are there in your life? How many would you call a friend?

How can I reach anyone if I stay inside my own circle? Is my circle enclosed with barbed wire, is it shrinking every day? What does someone have to do in order to pass the guards that I have posted around my circles? You know the ones...rules, laws, acceptable behavior, belief systems and all of the rest.
How can I reach anyone with the love of Christ if I make them agree to a 10 page code of conduct before I talk to them?

Lots of questions. I hope I can answer them in my own heart soon. I believe that love is the first step. I believe I need a new understanding of love and just how far reaching it is.


  1. Very good thinking Dawn... I am having some of these same thoughts the last few days. Must be a moving of the Spirit.

  2. Amen! If we are proud because our only friends are believers, then we are missing the point of the Gospel. I may write about this one my blog as well.

  3. Great post, Dawn. You've really done some thinking lately, thank you for sharing with us what God has put on your heart.

    It's good for me to remember that whoever God puts in our path is who we are to minister to..... at times there have been some I've really wondered why God would bring them around, especially with the influence of the kids in mind. But, really, most of these people I thought questionable have been very respectful of our beliefs and desire to raise our children a certain way. It seems like those people that I was concerned about influencing my kids negitivly have been the very ones who have blessed us. I've had the experience that God puts them in my life to teach me and change me, even if I give a small (and seemingly insignificant) bit of encouragment to them. If I miss or choose to ignore those opportunities I miss or choose to ignore those blessings too. I can think of several recent examples.

    Thanks for sharing your heart and giving me something to chew on.

  4. Wow, girl, you are speaking my 'heart'. I think this had a lot to do with our holy discontent with desiring to plant a church that wasn't so program-driven, more "Simple" church if you will. Giving people time to get to know folks in their own spheres of influence, not judging them for not always being at the church everytime the door is open at some program or event b/c they have chosen to do something else with their time (i.e. being a Christian witness by being their son's or daughter's soccer coach, instilling values an the love of Christ into children's lives merely by living out their faith, or other such activity). Or as you stated, smiling at the grocery clerk, or the postman, or the mom with all of her kids grocery shopping who looks frazzled. And the list goes on and on and on.

    Dawn, I just think it is another ploy that has been used to make us, Christians, blind to those around us. We are so busy 'doing for Christ' that we can't just 'be Christ's agents' in our normal, everyday lives. We don't have to have a program or a plan, or make people out to be our 'pet project'. We just need to love them, live out our faith daily, authentically, in real-life, ordinary ways. It really doesn't have to be time consuming either.

    Sadly, I think the Christian marketing forces have almost brainwashed folks into believing that if they haven't taken this course, read this book, been trained by such and who, or commit to serving X number of times a month, then they can't serve Christ. WRONG! Doesn't have to be formal. Doesn't have to be official. And most certainly doesn't have to be planned.

    Just be Christ's agents everywhere you go, to all who cross your path, and however he gives you opportunity to share his love by word or action or deed.

    It's really pretty simple. We just over complicate everything, I think.

    And, you know, this is my first year as an official homeschooling mom. You know what? I was afraid that folks would have those same misconceptions about me......I pray that I haven't come across that way to others.

    YOur posts always cause me to think! Thanks, Jada