When You Relate to the Brat
So I don’t know about you, but man does my faith go through seasons. And it seems to be this last season has felt more like the eternal winter that Narnia had to face rather that a short three months of ice. It’s one of those times when there’s something going on between God and I and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I just know I don’t like it. I’ve tried reading and listening to sermons that I hoped would help me out but I still feel this blahness and apathy when it comes to my heart toward God. I know that there have been some situations and life changes I’m having to work through but there is also this unknown thing that my heart has been mad at Him for. And this morning as I got up in an attempt to have some alone time with Him and hoping my heart will feel like praying and connecting with The One Who Loves Me Most, I was reminded of the older brother in a story Jesus told. It’s been dubbed the Prodigal Son even though Jesus Himself had no name for it. And while yes, the younger son is the main character, I believe that Jesus gives care and detail to describing what the older son was going through because he too mattered to God.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, basically this young kid is selfish and asks his dad for his inheritance early and goes and squanders it on all the stuff a young, foolish guy would typically go after. And then he finds himself hungry and broke and decides to beg his dad to hire him as a servant because at least he’ll have food and a place to sleep. Well, when the kid comes back he discovers the dad had been waiting for him all along and welcomes him back as if nothing had happened. It really is an amazing story that describes the love of God in a way that had never been taught until Jesus came. But there’s another character my heart has connected to on way more occasions: the older brother who stayed and worked while the brother squandered his money. As the dad is throwing a huge party for the son who’s come back, the older brother refuses to join them. So the dad goes out to see what’s going on and the older is mad at the celebration for the younger. Like any good father, the dad explains that he appreciates all he has done for him and that in the end, he gets the inheritance and his hard work with be rewarded, but that doesn't take away from the celebration of the younger returning. I think every time I’ve heard this taught on, the older brother is chastised for being selfish and his jealousy is looked down upon as if he was just acting like a brat and needed to get over himself. But every time I read this story my heart goes out for the big brother because that is the kind of pain I know more deeply. I mean, I had a couple years where I ran from God and I came back and it was amazing at how He welcomed me and all the ways He redeemed my past mistakes. But being almost twenty years into this whole chasing after God thing, more times I have felt forgotten and overlooked by my Heavenly Father. There have been many, many seasons where I have felt Him ask me to sacrifice and believe and wait on Him, only to see nothing of the promises of which I felt He spoke deeply into my heart. So yeah, I get the older brother. If I were more perfected then maybe when I saw someone getting what I had felt God ask me to hold out for, my heart wouldn't feel jealous. I mean, sure the older brother may have been acting like a brat by not going in, but his heart was hurt. It says that he was mad, but let’s be honest, when anyone sits with our feelings “mad” is usually a symptom of something else. In my small group we’ve been talking about processing our emotions and how it’s important to work through what we’re feeling. Personally I have 2 primary emotions: pissed and sad. But I know that those two have deeper roots that I must explore and so I whip out my handy dandy list of emotions and get to what I’m really feeling. And so a lot of times when I’m angry, that’s a cue that I’m struggling with jealousy or feeling forgotten. And working with kids I get a lot of practice talking about and processing emotions. When one of them is acting out and it’s easy to label them as acting “spoiled” and dismiss their jealousy. ButI know I need to stop and ask them if they think the other is liked more. A lot of the times the jealous one is feeling less loved and needs to be reminded of how crazy their family is about them. And I don’t know about you, but jealousy with a root of forgotten in something my heart struggles with and I think the older brother in this story may have been feeling the same thing. I think he gets a bad rap and dimissed but there are many of us who can relate to this. So if this morning you find yourself feeling disappointed, overlooked by God or overwhelmed by what you feel He has asked you to do, know you’re not alone. One of my favorite verses is Numbers 11:15 where Moses is fed up with the Israelites. He says to God “If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
God is not bothered when we are upset with Him. In fact He wants us to go to Him and tell Him. He wants our hearts uncensored and raw. He already knows what is going on inside of us and I believe He smiles we’re comfortable enough to be completely honest before Him.