I was privileged this morning to enjoy worshipping from the bleachers, literally, since our church community meets in an elementary school gymnasium. I usually prefer the back support the hard plastic chairs on the ground level.
From my bleacher seat, it was hard not to notice the many children in the service, punctuating the music with their curiousity and liveliness. I love watching the wee little ones, just being – uninhibited, unaware, unembarrassed. I couldn’t help but think about the prodigal son, as we’re on the 2nd week of this series called Prodigal. Jumping ahead mentally (today’s message was a character sketch of the father and two sons) to the point where the son returns home, I realized he had to become again like a little child. He too had to become uninhibited, unaware, unembarrassed. He had to reach the place where he didn’t care at all what anyone thought – he was headed home.
This morning I started reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen, and was struck by this thought in the prologue, where Nouwen reflects on his initial impressions on viewing this great work of art by Rembrandt: “As I reflect on my own journey, I become more and more aware of how long I have played the role of observer. . . . Had I, myself, really ever dared to step into the center, kneel down and let myself be held by a forgiving God?”
Even as I sat in the bleachers this morning, I realized how often I too have been merely an observer. Nouwen suggests that this role is really one where we are in control and that to “give up the somewhat safe position of the critical observer seemed like a great leap into totally unknown territory.” I too can relate, as he says, to the desire to “keep some control over my spiritual journey, to remain able to predict at least a part of the outcome.”
It’s easy to waiver between the two positions, at times worshipping and loving God with total abandon, and at other times, stepping back into the role of observer, as Satan turns my focus on myself, hubris kicks in and painful awareness creeps in, a kind of looking over my shoulder, and I realized I’m much more concerned about what others might be thinking. I want to live in that place of total abandon, and yet I love that, as often as I roam, there is always a place for me at the Father’s feet, just as I am.