It’s been a thick week at Ten Thousand Homes – higher highs and lower lows, the heat got turned up in the spiritual realm – hot enough to boil over and to burn, and well over a hundred people are on base going as in many different directions. I got bowled over.
Facebook flashed my friends’ exotic and fabulous 30th birthday excursions and happily-ever-after family photo shoots, while Lifa and I sat in a broken-down car on the side of a dangerous mountain road over an hour from home.
Sundresses and sunburns blazed the shades of the land of the free and the home of the brave from pools, beaches, boats and barbeque pits, while I had to bring Lifa home early and lock ourselves in the cottage in front of a space heater because he just couldn’t stay up long enough for us to see even one firework crack or have the South African version of a s’more.
I’ve wanted to run away this week.
To drop everything and go back to the “normal”.
I wanted to be finished with leaky washing machines, faulty electricity, part-time single-parenting, windows that won’t close, my favorite pair of jeans stolen off the clothes line, snakes and scorpions coming in, and humanity’s bruises, bumps and burns.
I want to feel my Creator and my Savior. I want to feel His breath in my lungs. And I can’t.
I’ve been pining for the “normal” – to get out of this thickness. But it hasn’t worked, hasn’t helped. It’s left me feeling much, much more broken.
I tried to hobble back to His gates this morning. I tried to bring my broken self into the yard, and see if He’d show up. I found myself wondering if my heart and my faith were even in the right place to do that, or if I was still just trying to put a band-aid on my bo-bo.
I remembered the story in Luke 15.
A father had two sons. One son wanted to get out of the unconventional love of his household and see what the “real world” had to offer. He wanted to taste and see “the normal”. So he asked for his share of the inheritance, and, with heavy pockets and an extra pep in his step, he went out and feasted, played, prostituted, and squandered. Soon enough, “normal” bit back with all of its brokenness and disillusionment. The son wasn’t living in the household of his inheritance anymore. He’d cut off the source of his wealth, and he’d run dry. He hit rock bottom, and decided to go crawling back.
His understanding of life was from the “normal” now, so he figured that, if he applied some strategy and some good PR, he could get hired at his dad’s house. He wrote a speech, prepared a resume, and approached the property with a defeated gait.
Immune to the unreaching, unseeing, uncaring grip of “normal”, the father had been out watching for him. He threw dignity, position and pride out. They never really applied where he lived anyway.
That father hiked up his robe, and ran to his son with the forgiving and overcoming speed of unconventional love. The speech started, but, not even knowing what PR is or why a person would need it, the father he never heard it. He was busy ordering for the finest robe, ring and sandals to be lavished on his son, and shouting out proclamations for the party of a lifetime. “Normal” was spoken over, defeated in the name of love.
When I’ve read this story before, I’ve usually related more closely to the other son. The one who never left the house, but was out working the fields when his brother came limping, and when his father went running. That well-behaved one that said, “Daaaaaaad, I’ve been slaving for you in the fields, and you’ve never even given me a morsel of the feast you’ve prepared for his wasteful, squandering vagabond.”
That unconventional father just looked back with eyes that never even flashed “normal’s” gauging glare and said, “Son, you’ve been at the source the whole time. You never even have to ask when you’re in the place that doesn’t run dry. Stop worrying about the work and the rules when you get hungry or lonely, and come have a feast.”
This time, this week, I’m not stomping from within the gates and from the fields of the harvest. I have before. But not this week.
This week, I’ve lusted for “normal”. I’ve wanted to squander my inheritance on things that don’t seem as vile as prostitution, but aren’t really that different.
I would’ve left the Source just to go back to my counseling career in America, just to see my mom and my sister and have a normal conversation with them, just to live in a household that is not surrounded by chaos, just to share in the poolside moments and holiday weekends, just to have normal relationships with people my own age and in my own stage of life, just to have the chance at a more-conventional family, just to be a part of the daily lives of my friends and their children, and just for a decent shower where I could actually shave my legs.
And, only because I’ve hit spiritual rock bottom, I stumble back this morning with a speech. And the hope of getting hired to take out the trash… or even worse, do the dishes.
I’m not sure if my heart is in the right place or if I just want relief. I’m wondering if my Father is looking for me, and if he will interrupt me to dress me in a robe of righteousness – not because I earned it, but because it’s been finished. And because everybody who comes Home is adorned in it. Will he slide that signet seal on my finger, the one I wanted to hawk for another one that came with a white picket fence?
Does the limp of that other brother go away when those fancy new sandals are placed on his feet? Does the thick leather and fine sole take the edge off of all those broken toes, stubbed on the reality of the dry and parched “normal”?
I’m begging to know.
I receive support in US dollars. I grocery shop with ZA Rand. I’m constantly calculating the exchange rate to determine what’s “worth it”.
When will I stop trying to calculate the exchange rate of the Father’s house? When will I just know the inherent weight difference of that robe of inheritance compared to the facebook feed and the friends and family I long to be around today?
Even on broken toes, limping to the gate with a persuasive speech prepared, I can tell you and my Father that I choose to exchange the “normal” for joy everlasting.
Some days I cry because I’ve been working so hard trying to earn my keep, but that unconventional Father has always been eager for me to come and enjoy the room He prepared for me.
Today I’m that other brother who squanders and grumbles. I’m not sure about that robe, except for it’s promised. And I’m not sure if I just want to wear the sandals because my feet hurt.
But my Father knows.
And comes running anyway.
I’m crying today – and still grumble-limping.
And he’s preparing the feast.
He’s never grumbled or wanted to go back to “normal” – not even when I took his wealth, his investment, and spit at it, in the name of “normal”. Not when He sacrificed the fattened calf for the party, or when He sacrificed his beloved Son for our redemption.
Let your Kingdom come.
Let normal be over and done.
Heaven’s gates overcome,
The lust for “normal” be done.