What if the prodigal son refused to let his father embrace him and acknowledge him and honor him? What if he ran away from his dad yelling, “I don’t deserve your love! I just want to live in your barn and muck stalls until I can make it all up to you. Just pretend you don’t know me, okay?” I think that’s a pretty ridiculous and obnoxious development, and the Holy Spirit agreed. Then He said, “So why do you keep living that out?”
For every time that I come to the Lord utterly broken and repentant and able to fall into His arms, there’s another time or two that I come back and try to bypass the welcome and head straight for the barnyard. It’s absolutely horrible. It was piercing to hear the Spirit’s correction, and it’s pretty uncomfortable to write as well. This is defiance and rebellion, plain and simple.
Only a fool claims to surrender and then tries to dictate the terms. I usually think of the pride of arrogance when I think of that kind of defiance. But it’s even more insidious in the pride of self-loathing, and that’s my go-to sin. In self-loathing, I feel justified in rebuffing the Father’s love. I don’t view it as reviling His Authority; I call it penitence, or atonement. I certainly don’t call it sin, but that’s what it is.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this particular sin, but it’s the first time that I’ve seen it in conjunction with the actual heart of the Father. I haven’t thought about what that would feel like to Him. So the Spirit gave me a picture that I couldn’t ignore.
I don’t have children of my own, but I have nieces and nephews who I love enormously. And if any of them came for a visit and refused my hug and my welcome and my celebration of them, claiming that they didn’t deserve it and would work to earn it first, I would be shocked and hurt. And a little mad, too. Who are they to tell me how to love them and when?! Who’s in charge here – me, or these stump-sized rodeo clowns?!
If that’s my response to the Spirit’s hypothetical scenario, I can’t imagine how much more ridiculous and ungrateful and presumptuously evil God must find me when I treat Him like that. God forgive me, it’s just so gross!
So here I am, repenting of my wicked pride, and pondering some surprising truths. Sometimes being obedient simply requires receiving the hug. Sometimes submitting to authority means being the guest of honor at a fabulous party. And sometimes the most humbling thing in the world is to let yourself be loved without limit when you least deserve it.
You have beset me and shut me in—behind and before, and You have laid Your hand upon me.
Your [infinite] knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high above me, I cannot reach it.
Where could I go from Your Spirit? Or where could I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (the place of the dead), behold, You are there.
Psalm 139:5-8 AMP