Home and the Father’s Love

11 01 2011

And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17)

Before I present the following quote from Henri Nouwen, a little background on my state of being would be helpful to orient the reader as to why this particular material struck such a cord with me.  (For those of you who prefer straightforward theological discourse to vulnerable confessions may want to look away now).

Two and a half years ago I moved my family out of and away from a very loving and supportive environment and since then we have moved three times.  I did it in order to chase my dream to teach– I had come to mistake my dream for the Lord’s calling on my life.  Since then the Spirit seems to have prevented my return to pastoral ministry.  I have also been unemployed while my wife has worked.  “Stay-at-home Dad” is not what I had planned for this stage of my life, but my heavenly Abba has allowed it and desires to use it for my good and his glory.  However, just like that nasty medicine your mother used to make you swallow, what’s good for me has also tasted pretty awful– and the aftertaste hasn’t been much better.

I know the thing I need most is to allow my heavenly Father to come within reach of my heart and allow His love to do its powerful work; but I have spent most of my time resisting just that.  It seems I have found myself a nice muddy rut and I can’t quite find the wherewithal to climb out.  So, you may now understand why Nouwen’s words, from his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, were such salve to my soul.

(from pages 37 & 39)

“Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests’ –the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light.  I have head that voice.  It has spoken to me in the past and continues to speak to me now.  It is the never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity and giving life and love whenever it is heard.  When I hear that voice, I know that I am home with God and have nothing to fear.  As the Beloved of my heavenly Father, ‘I can walk in the valley of darkness: no evil would I fear.’  As the Beloved, I can ‘cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.’  Having ‘received without charge,’ I can ‘give without charge.’  As the Beloved, I can confront, console, admonish, and encourage without fear of rejection or need for affirmation.  As the Beloved, I can suffer persecution without desire for revenge and receive praise without using it as a proof of my goodness.  As the Beloved, I can be tortured and killed without ever having to doubt that the love that is given to me is stronger than death.  As the Beloved, I am free to live and give life, free also to die while giving life.”

“Jesus has made it clear to me that the same voice that he heard at the River Jordan and on Mount Tabor can also be heard by me.  He has made it clear to me that just as he has his home with the Father, so do I.  Praying to his Father for his disciples, he says: ‘They do not belong to the world, any more than I belong to the world.  Consecrate them [set them aside] in the truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth.’  These words reveal my true dwelling place, my true abode, my true home.  Faith is the radical trust that home has always been there and always will be there.  The somewhat stiff hands of the father rest on the prodigal’s shoulders with the everlasting divine blessing: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.'”

“Yet over and over again I have left home. I have fled the hands of blessing and run off to faraway places searching for love!  This is the great tragedy of my life and the lives of so many I meet on my journey.  Somehow I have become deaf to the voice that calls me the Beloved, have left the only place where I can hear that voice, and have gone off desperately hoping that I would find somewhere else what I could no longer find at home.”

The experience of the last two and a half years has left me longing for home, even though I am no longer sure where that is, geographically speaking.  I have been a fool, for Home is at hand, just as the Kingdom is at hand for those who repent and allow themselves to live under the Father’s love.

I pray that sometime, preferably sooner rather than later, I will be able to truly receive the Father’s great love and know deep in my spirit that His words to Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” are also meant for me.  I pray that I will receive it deep enough into my very being that I no longer feel the need to look far afield for that which has always been mine for the asking.  So be it.

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3 responses

11 01 2011
Chad

Rich, thanks for this. It truly encourages me. I can relate to your position because three years ago I left full-time ministry. I work full-time while I am finishing my graduate work towards ordination in the Church of the Nazarene, and at times I don’t think I can take it anymore. At such times my wife reminds me that I am tent-making and says it will be a beautiful tent. I don’t know how beautiful it will be, but I imagine it sure will be a sturdy tent. I will be praying for you to experience the Father’s love as you desire, my brother.

11 01 2011
Rich Wollan

Chad, the peace and grace of Christ to you and your family in this challenging time of ministerial preparation.
Your prayers for me, a stranger, are a great blessing.

14 01 2011
Rachel

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Paul is right and you are in the Hands of the Father. Let Him love you with His painful-purifying love. Let Him hold you with His gentle-fierce arms. Let Him fight for you from His jealous-just heart. Continue to walk in (and sometimes toward) the freedom of submission.
My love, I love you. Your Wife

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