This summer has been pretty busy and that busyness doesn't seem like it's going to come to an end any time soon. Not too long after school ended, I went to Colorado Springs for my fifth and final (tear) EDGE Summit. For a reference to what little turn around time there was, we had graduations happening while I was in the Springs. I was there for a week before saying good by to my EDGE classmates, a lot of whom I probably won't see again this side of heaven (a sad thought, but it's true). Some of us are continuing on staff as Staff In Training. I think there was one or two couples doing entity staff, which as I understand it, is sort of like a third year of EDGE where you are on campus, but you are getting less training and it is not a long-term commitment. A few others, myself included, are doing associate staff, meaning that we have or will have jobs outside of the Navs while still committing to campus and other Nav events. Still others have decided to leave Navs completely. It's sad to see us all go our separate ways, but I know that we are following God where He leads us.
Five days after I got back from Summit, I headed to California for a summer training program in Pine Valley, outside of San Diego. I was there for a little over 2 weeks. 2 weeks after that one ended, I will leave for another training program in Sacramento to work with inner-city kids.
I thought it would be nice to tell people about the awesome things that happened at Pine Valley via my blog. I also thought that just telling you things would be boring. So I decided to write a small story, a parable if you will. This one was actually told by someone a lot smarter and holier than me (Jesus), but I'm editing it a bit.
Some background: We studied the book of Galatians at Pine Valley, which deals a lot with works-based justification that the church was dealing with. Some people told the Galatians that they had to be circumcised to be true believers in Jesus. The apostle Paul, himself circumcised, let them know that it was not by following any Jewish law that they were saved, but by faith in Christ alone. He said that if they made it necessary to follow one law, they would have to follow all of the law. They were making themselves slaves to the law rather than accepting the freedom that they had just by being sons and daughters of God. That's what this story is about.
I wake up in a daze. The sun painfully hits my skin, reminding me of the even more painful realization of a new day. "Will this ever end?"
I think back. I had it good. I didn't know how good I had it. Like an idiot, I told Dad, "I'm fine living on my own. I got this. I'm just going to take what you've blessed me with, and hit the road. Thanks for everything, but I don't need you anymore." How wrong I was.
This life is pathetic. I don't have anything left. No money. No bed. No food. I'm so hungry. I look at the stuff the pigs are eating. When I was living with Dad, that was appropriately called slop. Now, I'd give anything just to eat what they're eating. Heck, I'd give anything just to eat anything. This is absolutely miserable.
I know what I have to do. I have to go back. It will be a big shot to my pride, but I don't care anymore. I would gladly give up my pride for a meal, a place to sleep, clothes that are cleaner than the ground I walk on. Dad's servants aren't even in the miserable state I'm in right now. I have to go back.
"What, are you going to waltz back in and pretend like you didn't completely dishonor and disrespect Dad?" The thought won't leave me as I walk towards the place I used to call home. This isn't a matter of my pride, but my family's. How could they just take me back in? "I know! I'll work off what I've done. I'll go back and be servant for Dad's house."
I know what I'm going to say. "Dad, I screwed up royally. I'm not worthy to be your son anymore, so take me back as a servant." I'm rehearsing this over and over again. It's all I can do as I walk. Am I still walking? I've been at this forever. Am I there yet?
I think I see my house in the distance. Yes, I do! It could be a shack, but nothing could look more like a castle. I can't wait to get there.
Is that... is Dad running? What a shameful thing to do. What's a man his age doing running like that? Did one of the horses get out again? What is he doing?
He just called my name. I haven't heard that name uttered in so long. It's like sweet, sweet music. But wait, does this mean he's coming to me? I wasn't expecting this. "Just tell him what you've rehearsed."
Dad finally catches up to me with a bigger smile on his face than any man should have after running so far. I look down in shame, not wanting to look into his eyes that I'm surprised even want to look at me. I start my speech: "Dad, I screwed up royally. I'm not worthy to be your son anymore, so-"
"It is him!" Dad yelled towards the house, interrupting my speech. "Quick, fire up the grills! Bring my robe and ring! Cook the very best steaks! My beloved son was dead, but is now brought back to me alive!" I went from being in the middle of a speech to being speechless. Did I hear him right?
He's almost pushing me towards the house now. "Wait, Dad, this isn't right." I stop to look at him. "This party, the robe, the ring, this doesn't make sense. I dishonored you. I took what you gave me and squandered it. I don't deserve a party. I don't deserve to be your son. I barely deserve to be your servant, but that's what I'm asking to be."
"Son," he said, taking my shoulders in his hands, as he always did when he was making a point to me, "do you know why I'm throwing this party? Don't you know why you get the ring and the robe? You're my son, with whom I am well pleased. None of this nonsense about being worthy. You're my son, and nothing can take that away. No matter how many times you leave, no matter how far you go, no matter how long you're gone, you will always be my son. That's unconditional. You don't have to work your up to sonship again. That's ludicrous. You didn't have to work to obtain it, you don't have to work to retain it, and you don't have to work to regain it. You are always my son, whom I love."
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
...and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."