Betty Duffy

(Amateur)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In a Relationship

“This Lent, for whatever reason, I have come to a deeper understanding of my own sinfulness,” Pedge said. Irene and I sat at her kitchen table, having just read the Parable of the Prodigal Son. “So much so, that it’s tempting to despair of ever kicking these sins. How can I say ‘I firmly resolve never to offend you again,’ when I know that I will, later today probably? What I wish I could remember is that it’s not how well I do with this resolution or that temptation, and it’s not about comparing myself with others; it’s about the relationship with the Father.”

I’ve often thought of the characters in this parable as representing two separate Christian vocations: the child who has never severed the relationship with God, the faithful child, and the one who has lived in darkness, but returns, never free from the memories that rear their heads, sometimes with a wink and a smile, sometimes with a sickening wave of shame. But if the Christian vocation is about the relationship with the Father, then both brothers are in about the same place—still standing at a bit of a distance. If the brother who remained at home was really in a relationship with the Father, he would share his father’s joy.

I used to think there was an “on/off” switch between me and God. If I committed a serious sin, I was cut off. Going to Confession would flip the switch back on. I went back and forth between monastic periods of deprivation, and periods of semi-debauchery. If God loved me one day, he hated me the next. There was no relationship between me and God. I was just a graceless creature attempting to live by what I thought were arbitrary standards. After a short time of such extremism, I gave up, exhausted.

If there had been a relationship, not only would I have shared God’s standards, but having fallen short, I might have gotten up and asked for his help and forgiveness. There’s no reason not to do so now, even with Lent nearly over—to hop up again like a dog who can’t be trained not to jump up on her Master (“Down Girl!”). But she’s up again, with muddy feet—never despairing of God’s mercy.

3 comments:

Kate said...

I love this post.

bearing said...

Sometimes with a wink and a smile, sometimes with a sickening wave of shame.

This struck me. I'm not sure which is more awful to contemplate -- the wink and smile, or the shame.

Dawn Farias said...

If the brother who remained at home was really in a relationship with the Father, he would share his father’s joy.

Yes.