How’s It Feel To Be The Older Brother?

About a month ago, I was at rehearsal for the worship team at church.  I had shown up feeling somewhat “off,” but I couldn’t really put my finger on why.  As we were singing, I found myself multitasking, having a conversation with God about how unsettled I felt.  Suddenly, this image of my ex-husband came to mind, and I immediately felt this surge of anger.

God: Why so angry?

Me: Uh, do You really need to ask that?  You know what he did.  I’m pretty much going to be angry about this forever.  I have to be.  If I stay angry, my guard stays up, and he can’t manipulate me anymore.

God: That’s a terrible way to go through life.  But I know your heart, and there’s more to this.

Me: Nope.

God: Ok, so pray for him.

Me: Excuse me?

God: Pray for him.

Me: How about no.  Buckets of no.

God: Why not?

Me: I believe deeply in prayer and in Your ability and willingness to answer.  If I pray for him, I’m afraid You’re actually going to bless him.

God: So you’re being selfish…and afraid.  Why would you be afraid of Me blessing him?

Me (feeling pretty indignant): Are You kidding?  Look what he did to me, to our family!  Even if he turned his heart back to You – for real – for him to prosper, to get Your blessing is just…wrong!

God: Hmmm.  How’s it feel to be the Older Brother?

Me: Huh?

God: The parable of the Prodigal Son.  You’re the Older Brother.  You’re so concerned with how I bless him, even though it doesn’t change how I bless you.  Why do you care?

Me: BECAUSE!  Because if You bless him, somehow it negates what he did, what I went through.  It proves that the rules really don’t apply to him, that he can do whatever he wants and still prosper.

God: You don’t trust Me.

Me: Yes I do.

God: Not with this.

Me: I’m supposed to trust You to vindicate me.  How am I vindicated if You’re blessing him??

God: Do you really think you see the whole picture?  And you want vindication, but I want you to be whole.  How can you be whole if you continue to carry around so much anger and fear?  How whole can you be when your anger and fear keep you from praying for someone who needs Me?  I have vindicated you and will continue to do so, but it might not look like what you think it should.  And you have wrestled so much lately with the loneliness of your heart, but until you let go of this anger and fear, you won’t be ready for the man I’m preparing for you.

It should be noted that having this kind of conversation while singing worship music at the same time is a mess.  But getting my heart right was worth it, and perhaps there’s no better place and time for that to happen.

I went home that night, put my daughter to bed, and sat for a long time, not quite sure what to say.  I knew I wasn’t yet ready to go all out praying for God’s best for my ex-husband, but I also knew that I needed to do something.

Ok, God.  I don’t know how to pray for Nathan yet, and I’m not sure I can pray for You to bless him, but I bring Nathan before You.  I ask that Your will be done in his life, and I ask that You change my heart to eventually see him through Your eyes.

It wasn’t a perfect prayer, but it was a start.  And if it keeps me from being the Older Brother, even better.

Tell Your Mountain About Your God

Confession: I’m a worrier.

Always have been.  It’s probably genetic, although I think it skipped my parents’ generation.  My mom says that if I don’t have something to worry about, I’ll find something.  It’s called borrowing trouble.

And it’s exhausting.

I recently made a list of the things that I fear, that I worry about, that wake me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and threaten the peace that I hold so dear.  This was really important, because lately it has seemed that fear has been in crazy pursuit of me.  I mean, an all-out hunt for my heart.  I made this list as part of a prayer, fully intending to give the list to God in exchange for that peace that passes all understanding He is so good at giving.

That’s not how things played out.

Instead, I pictured a mountain, and I heard the phrase “tell your mountain about your God.”  I’ve seen that phrase a million times; I always thought of it as a clever script-flip on telling God about your problems…but I hadn’t really considered what it meant.  Until I had a list of mountains, and I had told God all about them, but suddenly sensed that maybe they needed to hear about my God too.

So, I kid you not, I told my mountains about my God.  As in, I stood in my bedroom and had a conversation with each of them.  (I’m not nuts, I swear.)  For example, one of my worries (that exists every time I have a move coming up) is about finding a home in my new location.  I told that mountain about my God who is Himself a shelter and a refuge, who could snap His fingers and create the house that is best for my daughter and me if He chose to.  I told that mountain about how God has never failed me in this area; I said this as I stood in the bedroom of the home discovered three months before moving to this assignment, for a great price, in a great area.  I told that mountain that it might as well shrink into nothing, because my God would make quick work of it in no time.

I went through every item on my list – some huge, some small, all important enough to gnaw at my soul in the late hours of the night.  I told each of the mountains about my God, about His character, about His willingness and ability to fight for me and for my daughter and to prepare the way ahead for us.  I regaled them with stories of His faithfulness, over and over, again and again.  And as I did so, my mountains transformed.  They were no longer huge, hulking obstacles to overcome; they became an audience – an audience for watching my God work, and my telling of who He is and what He can do was simply the opening act.

I told my mountains about my God, and I ended up reminding myself about who He is.  His character, His faithfulness, and His promise were enough to melt the giants into nothing.  The worry, the worst-case scenarios, the lies, the cringe-worthy things that my brain comes up with in the middle of the night – none of them can stand when faced with who He is, the light He brings, and the fierceness with which He fights for His own.

I made a list of my mountains and expected God to just handle it.  He could have, obviously.  But there’s something about facing the mountains and watching the magic happen simply by declaring God to be who He says He is.  Where the mountains disappeared into nothing, my faith grew in their place.  God handled it, just not the way I expected – but that’s usually so much better anyway.

Do you have mountains?  Of course you do.  We all do.  I challenge you to tell them about your God…