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A repost from Barbara Shafer, Seminary Gal.

The story of the prodigal son is a familiar one.  It’s a story of rebellion and envy and of what the Father’s forgiveness and love look like. 

It’s also an expression of the true spirit of Lent.

Every once in a while, people ask me what I’m giving up for Lent. 

  • A meal each day? 
  • Chocolate?
  • Red meat?
  • TV?
  • Internet?

None of those.  It may surprise some of you who know me to learn that this year for Lent, I’ve given up self-loathing.

It’s been my secret sin as I’ve tried to earn love and favor only to find it’s not something I can earn.   Many of my closest friends have probably seen a confident façade, unaware that I’ve been carrying this people-pleasing, sin-recalling, self-flagellating, rejection-wallowing, failure-clinging, and never-measuring-up-self-loathing around for the better part of 50 years.  This year, I came to my senses.

For me, Lent isn’t about giving up something for a season.  It’s giving something up for life.

In Luke 15, Jesus says that the younger son came to his senses and got up and went to his father (picking up verse 20)  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. … 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, … 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.

"The Prodigal Son"/Tamara Paetkau/www.mbherald.com

Ironically both the younger and older son learned that the currency of the father’s love wasn’t found in check boxes of duty.   The father’s love couldn’t be earned or lost.  The father’s love for both of his sons was found in relationship.

So, this year, I’ve repented of self-loathing and dutifully trying to earn favor.  Instead, I choose to embrace the true spirit of Lent.  I have come to my senses and given up something that grieves the Father who loves me.  I’m not just giving it up for a season, but a lifetime, embracing the relationship I can never earn and can never lose.  There is a Harvest of Joy as we celebrate how our Father loves us by sending His Son Jesus so that we can experience true forgiveness!

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