There are some books that take me a long time to finish reading. Usually this is neither due to the number of pages nor the density of thought, but precisely because of the callousness around my heart in implementing the lessons held within. There are those books that you read, and then there are those books that you attempt to live out. Recently, I have been slowly working through Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. There is a question that has been haunting me on page forty-two, ” To who do I belong? To God or to the world?”
The proper Christian response comes to me as swiftly as the sun setting on the equator, “to God, of course, to God.” But lately I have been examining my responses to life events. As Socrates reminds us,” the unexamined life is not worth living.” My responses have been telling me a lot about the real answer to this question. I think of how quickly depressed I can get when someone critiques me or saddened by a friend or family member who make destructive choices. On the other hand, when my wife compliments me, or a professor praises me for my writing, I am all of a sudden confident and sure. The truth is that I am seeking love based on condition. If I just do this one thing, then _____ will respect me/accept me into their PhD program, ect. So to whom Do I belong?
The truth is that I am still much like the prodigal son, coming back from a far away place. The foundation of this present world we live in is one of conditional love. -What you do, determines how you are loved. As Nouwen shared in his book, ” I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.” The addictions we see in the world arise from the world’s inherent inability to quench the heart’s need to be loved without condition. No matter where the son is in the story, he remains his Father’s son. We are never in a land that is so far away that we can never return to the unconditional love of our heavenly Father. His embrace awaits us.