Rise and go and do the next thing.

I was reminded by another blogger this week of how we need to ask God, not to remove our burdens, but to give us grace to bear them, and to bear them to Him, so that He can use them in our lives to bring us fully into His Heavenly Kingdom.

In the Orthodox Church this Sunday of the Prodigal Son is one of our markers letting us know that Lent is approaching, and I’ve been thinking again about what I can learn from the story about this grace I need.

The parable for this week is about a journey, and every journey consists of putting one foot in front of the other, or “doing the next thing.” We are all familiar with this sort of activity when we are ill, and need to take our medicine, follow the prescriptions of our doctors, according to schedule. And don’t stop taking the medicine until you are all well!

The extra effort we put forth during Lent is not to show our zeal but to acquire humility which puts us in the place to receive grace. Paul Evdokimov writes about just one of the many “treatments to be taken” in the Church:

The sacrament of confession is metanoia or transformation more than penitentia. Confession is understood as a ‘clinic,’ that is, a place of healing. That prayer before confession says: ‘You have come to the physician, may you not return without being healed.’ … St. John Chrysostom describes this quite precisely: ‘Time is of no matter. We do not ask if the wound has been treated often but if the treatment has been successful. The state of the wounded one indicates when the disease has been removed.”

“In patience you possess your souls,” the Lord has told us. (Luke 21:19) That is what I have to learn, to say, “I will arise and go to my Father,” as the prodigal did, today, tomorrow, and the next day and the next, until I am completely healed. And I don’t expect to see the day on this earth that I won’t need to stay with the program.

Here are the thoughts I had on this parable a few years ago:

He Came to Himself

One thing that impressed me about the story was the distance factor. The son was in a far country, when he realized what he needed to do. He was hungry and wasted, but he still needed to rise and go, to travel a long way, which must have been a struggle.

All of humanity is represented by the prodigal son, and most of us are still on the journey. Some of us have begun to repent and are a bit farther on our way, but we are all clothed in our flesh, struggling with our sins, anticipating the day when we sit in the Kingdom and feast with our Father, enjoying the restoration of our full inheritance.

In the story, the son receives everything he had thrown away and lost. For now, we have the earnest of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God to help us continue. Every day I need to decide to take the next step on the way. But I know more than the son in the parable, who hoped for a corner of the pig shed. “…for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

I’m afraid I often act a bit nonchalant, as though I am at the gate or even in my Father’s arms already. My initial coming to myself has to be followed up by a constant facing-up to the toil of the road. Maybe I have been sitting on the grassy shoulder wishing the trip weren’t so long, wondering if maybe someone will arrive and carry me the rest of the way.

St. Herman of Alaska reminds me: “The true Christian is a warrior making his way through the regiments of the invisible enemy to his heavenly homeland.”

9 thoughts on “Rise and go and do the next thing.

  1. Good stuff.

    I always think about the Father who was waiting and watching for his son to return home. The fact that the Father saw him from afar and ran out to meet him on the road shows me how much he believed his son would come back. They walked home together part of the way.

    ~Jody

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  2. Gretchen, I love that while the son was a ways off, his father saw him, pulled up his robe and RAN to greet his son. In those days, Jewish men of note did NOT run much less pull up their robe and show their legs. Then, before the son could say much, the father began showering him with love. All the son had to do was make the effort and his father met him, arms out stretched, welcoming and overflowing with love.

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  3. Hi there! Thanks for visiting my blog. I love the name of yours. Great post here. I thank God for his grace, which accepts me as I am. Saved by grace, through faith. It's all God, and nothing I have done. You're right , we are all on a journey.Lent is a great time of reflection.

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  4. John Chrysostom is one of my hubby's very favorites of the giants of the early church. Such good words. Adam told us this morning in worship that we need Christ every day before we are saved, we continue to need Him every day after we're saved, and even in eternity on the New Earth, we will continue to need His sustaining power and presence every day. Good reminders, GJ 🙂

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  5. Thanks for the well-put point that Lent is not about our zeal, but about humility. Of course, any hardship makes us a bit grumpy, which then in turn reminds us of the need for humility.

    I've also been thinking a lot lately about a quote from Martin Luther: “All life is repentance.”

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