A few years ago, there was a relational situation in my life that I desperately needed breakthrough in. It was a season of deep pain, loss, tears, helplessness, questions, venting and sleepless nights. The longer the strife lasted, the more my heart slowly began to harden. I moved from hurt yet hopeful to battle weary, jaded and increasingly cynical. I stopped believing for God to fix the situation. I stopped praying for the person. My hardened heart and un-renewed mind thought up several scenarios of how I would treat the person once they eventually came around. The person had been on their own difficult journey with God which had in turn, affected their relationship with me.
Several months in, as I was going about my day, reflecting on the situation and building up my retaliation plan (Yes, not they most Christian-y thing, I know), God began speaking into the situation. In the most gentle way the Holy Spirit said, "Maria, hem the robe and polish the ring." It was definitely NOT what I wanted to hear. I wanted God to be on MY side. Affirm that I was right and that they were wrong. I wanted God to tell me that He would deal with them for their actions and their treatment towards me. Instead, God was inviting me to see the heart of the Father for all His children. Even when His children weren't getting along as a result of free will and living in a fallen world.
Though I already knew the verse God was referring to with that instruction, I flipped through my bible to find the scripture for context and clarity.It was an instruction that He was calling me to obey, and I was not ready for it.
In Luke 15, Jesus told the parable of the lost son. As the parable goes, one of the two sons prematurely asked for his inheritance from his father, set off to a distant county and wasted away all he had been given and had been left depleted.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything."
In the ongoing relational turmoil, I didn't know if the breakthrough would come anymore. My offense and bitterness gave birth to cynicism and cynicism to passivity. I had lost sight of eternity and the call to love my neighbor. I had lost faith that the person would come around. And IF they even did come around, I didn't know what kind of baggage they would be bringing along with them. If they did come with any, I was for sure not planning to help them unpack.
God wasn't comforting me, taking my side and telling me that I have been living right and they are on the wrong. He wasn't allowing me to get away with those feelings that were internally destroying me and causing me to lose sight of what being a follower of Christ means. Instead, God's instruction was one of prayer and preparation from a posture of grace and mercy. The Father was inviting me to His vantage point to see His child who was far away from His perspective. And oh, how he loves that lost one that I was so quick to cancel and give up on.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
After all that wild living, wasting away his life and wealth far away from his Father, the son has this moment where the scriptures say that he "came to his senses." Sight, as we know, is one of the five basic human senses. The lost son living in darkness saw the light. He gained sight. The son gained perspective and revelation. He rightly saw the father. And when he rightly saw the father, he began his journey back home.
When God kindly corrected me that day, I recognized that He didn't want me to be the older son who only heard the music and dancing from out in the field. He wanted me to be at the frontline with the Father, ready to receive the brother even if he is still far off. He wanted me to prepare for the return of the lost one.
Do you have someone in your life who has walked away from you, your family, your friendship, your relationship, from church or from God? Have you disregarded them because of decisions they have made? Did you at one time used to believe God would bring them back home but you got weary of praying, hoping and believing? Could God be inviting you to hear Him and see His heart for them in 2020?
It's easy to pray and believe for the lost when the lost are not people you intimately know who at one point of your life, may have brought you pain. It's easy to be passive and cancel people when we are focused on the here and now but when we recognize that there are people lost and stand to live in a Christ-less eternity, something in us changes.
When we rightly see the lost as the Father sees them and when we recognize the brevity of life, the finality of eternity and the real horror that hell is, we gain perspective. Perspective provokes us to prayer and preparation.
We get to be an extension of the Father. As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, it is no longer us who lives but Christ who lives in us. We don't have the luxury to cancel or be passive about people Jesus died to include. We don't allow our feelings of offense or weariness to allow us to give up on people. We recognize we do not fight against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). There is a greater enemy we are up against that would love nothing more than for the found to ostracize the lost and the lost to remain lost and blind feeling unwanted and judged by the Father.
“Turning to his servants, the father said, ‘Quick, bring me the best robe, my very own robe, and I will place it on his shoulders. Bring the ring, the seal of sonship, and I will put it on his finger. And bring out the best shoes you can find for my son.
What does polishing the ring and hemming the robe look like?
The call to polish the ring and hem the robe for me meant to prepare myself to receive the person when they came back. To extend mercy and grace to them.
Mercy mends. It builds bridges. It polishes. It forgives. It makes space. It goes after the lost. It welcomes. It pulls out a seat. It celebrates. It walks with the newly found. Grace has better laid out for them than they deserve. As all of heaven rejoices and welcomes the once lost back into the family, we do too. On earth as it is in Heaven.
Sometimes, hemming the robe and polishing the ring looks like doing the necessary heart work, where the lost person has brought a lot of pain. This may be through counselors, leaders, mentors, pastors and friends. It will definitely be through prayer. It will look like praying for God to soften and heal your heart, to help you be a compassionate, forgiving and merciful peacemaker. Because one day, the lost one will come home. And when they do, you get to affirm the seal of sonship that Jesus died for them to have access to.
Unless the God of mercy and loving kindness overshadows and overrules the god of entitlement, bitterness, self-righteousness and passivity we will keep cancelling people God is calling home. We'll stop praying for them. We'll stop being missional. We'll stop being intentional. We'll get caught up in our own lives. We'll stop living out the call to love our neighbor. We'll stop being loudly and proudly living out the Good News to those who are far.
There have been a lot of all these great prophetic words about 2020 being the year of vision and clarity but have we made this a selfish word applicable to our lives only? What part do the Great Commission and the greatest commandment, that includes loving your neighbor as yourself, fit into your 2020 goals?
Faithful Follower is believing for 2020 to be the year:
That we may have 20/20 vision to see God's lost children as the Father sees them.
That we as followers of Jesus we begin to seriously prepare our hearts and lives to accommodate for the return of millions of God's children who are lost.
That we will take responsibility and our place in the Great Commission for those who are lost, walking in darkness or have lost sight of God due to difficult seasons.
That those who are lost, walking in darkness or have lost sight of God due to difficult seasons may regain their sight.
That the spiritually blind may gain sight, either for the first time ever, or for the first time in a long time.
That they may have 20/20 vision to see themselves as the Father sees them. That they may rightly see God for who He really is. As a Father. As a Redeemer. As a Savior. As a Friend.
That as they will come back home.
That the lost may feel loved and celebrated as they come home.
I believe with all my heart that this is a year of awakening and harvest. The Father's lost children are coming home.
Lord, I pray over every person reading this post. Whether they know you or not there's always more to know and see. God, I pray for 20/20 vision in 2020 for each person. By Your light, cause us to first see ourselves as You see us. Bring light to any place of darkness within our hearts and minds. Cause us to have Your heart for Your lost children. God, begin to highlight people in our lives who are lost that we can pray and prepare for their return. Bring to our minds, friends, family members, colleagues, classmates who are blinded by the things of this world or by pain and disappointment. Put on us the burden to pray to rightly see them and for them to rightly see you. God we pray for every person who is lost right now, who walked away from you. Show us how to practically build bridges.Show us how to love. Heal the parts of our hearts that need healing from the words and actions of those who are still lost. Give us boldness in sharing Your light and truth in this dark and fallen world. In Jesus name, Amen.