The Challenge of Forgiveness

13 01 2011

Here is another shot directly into my heart from the words of Henri Nouwen (The Return of the Prodigal Son, from chapter 3, “The Younger Son’s Return, pg. 53)


“One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness. There is something in us humans that keeps us clinging to our sins and prevents us from letting God erase our past and offer us a completely new beginning. Sometimes it even seems as though I want to prove to God that my darkness is too great to overcome. While God wants to restore me to the full dignity of sonship, I keep insisting that I will settle for being a hired servant. But do I truly want to be restored to the full responsibility of the son? Do I truly want to be so totally forgiven that a completely new way of living becomes possible? Do I trust myself and such a radical reclamation? Do I want to break away from my deep-rooted rebellion against God and surrender myself so absolutely to God’s love that a new person can emerge? Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let God be God and do all the healing, restoring and renewing. As long as I want to do even a part of that myself, I end up with partial solutions, such as becoming a hired servant. As a hired servant, I can still keep my distance, still revolt reject, strike, run away, or complain about my pay. As the beloved son, I have to claim my full dignity and begin preparing myself to become the father.” [i.e. to do what I have seen Him do—as Jesus said, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19) ]


For me, it seems I spend most of my time and energy concocting “partial solutions” and other compromises that prevent genuine restoration and new life which my Father longs to give me. May my desire for some level of self-sufficiency be crucified with Christ that I may know the joy and dignity of being a son who fully reflects his Father. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

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