As I type this I find myself chuckling and honestly, somewhat embarassed, at my arrogance! Making a statement like, "I'm like the older brother" implies I have been good and righteous, upright and proper, that I've always traveled the 'high road' and chosen the 'right' way over the 'easy' one. It brings to mind one who has been overlooked and unappreciated. When you (I) really think about it, I am entitled to complain! You might (I have all too often) become angry that I have been so poorly treated!
"Excuse me," I say to myself. "What are you thinking?!" You see, like the eldest son, I have overlooked the grace in my own life--the times I was less than honorable but was blessed none the less. The times I failed to do what was right -- or as bad -- did what was right and then felt resentment that "the world" didn't applaud me! Yes, even the times I absolutely and completely deserved to be punished for some sin or another and God forgave me -- granted me blessings, answered prayers and poured out His grace upon my life without proper thankfulness and humility on my part.
How dare I? What was I thinking all these years? Who was I kidding, anyway? So, my pastor will no doubt be pleased to realize that at least one of those in the pews this morning heard his message. I'm sure he never imagined that the words he spoke were prepared in advance for me to hear. The notes I took from his sermon:
Joy and resentment cannot reside together. There is no room for joy when we feel resentment. . . Resentment = complaining [imagine my ears perking up here!] God loves all equally. No it's not fair = that can make us resentful. [My favorite part is next] Like the father in the parable, God leaves the party to draw us in, to draw us to Him in spite of our sinful resentment.
Wow! Imagine how these words resonated for me, especially in light of my recent revelations about gratitude and complaining. Some years ago I had a conversation with my pastor about how "hard" it was to be the older son. At that time he acknowledged my feelings - and understood. He also urged me "not to miss the party" as I wrestled with my feelings. Sound advice. Finally heeded, several years later.
I am so thankful to realize that I am in reality the prodigal child to whom God runs, while I am still far off down the road, to embrace me. God's grace waits for us to "get it."
Blessings on your journey,