Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Prodigal Daughter

I have officially fallen off the bandwagon of my Lenten goal. My goal was not to have any sugar (at all) during Lent. After talking with my friend Kristy and several other people (and reading some great posts on this blog) about the tension between legalism and obedience, I think my awareness started to slip in an effort not to be "legalistic" about it. (What Clint posted about before, in the "is this good or is this not good"?)

I was ordering a scone one morning for breakfast when meeting a couple of friends for coffee, and a friend came up behind me and asked how my sugar fast was doing. And all of a sudden, halfway through eating the scone, I realized... it has sugar in it. The "slipping up" bothered me more because I hadn't even realized it, and less because I had "slipped up." I had just ordered the scone without thinking, because that's what I always do. Of course, I got tea because that's what I always do. No sugar. But the scone really bothered me.

Then, later that week, I went out to eat with my parents. And I ordered water, because that's what I always do. Then, during the meal, I heard the couple behind us eating the key lime pie, and I thought, "wow, I love key lime pie... wouldn't that be a great treat for celebration of this event?" And I ordered the key lime pie, and ate it. And I didn't even think about the sugar. Not until the next day when I was writing a review about the restaurant and thought... I had sugar last night and didn't even realize it!

Again, it isn't so much the slipping up (doing a behavior I wasn't supposed to do) that bothered me. It was the lack of awareness. The whole point of giving something up for Lent is to enhance your relationship with God and your awareness of your nature. And I like the posts that Clint & Amy have written on here about recognizing the tension between obedience to God's desires and the legalism of religious self-righteousness. So I guess what really makes me struggle with the "falling off the bandwagon" is that I didn't even think about it. I let myself get back into my patterns, and I wasn't conscious of what I was doing. I was just making decisions like I always made them. I was not drinking sugary coffee drinks or soda because I'm trying to drink more water (for health reasons). But I was ordering scones and key lime pie because that's just what I would do if I could eat whatever I wanted. But the problem is, I'm not supposed to be just eating whatever I wanted. I'm supposed to be giving up sugar for Lent, in order to be obedient to my awareness of God in my life.

This reminds me of the book The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, where he talks about the parable of the prodigal son and the elder brother. The elder brother is keeping the rules, and thinks there's something inherently good about him because he can keep the rules. He feels righteous in his legalism. The younger brother knows that he cannot keep the rules, and he follows his selfish desires, but then he returns to his Father because he knows that only his Father can give him what he really needs. I don't want to be an elder brother about this, and try to beat myself into legalistic submission. But I don't want to be the younger son who just decides to fulfill his selfish desires because he can't keep all the rules. I want to be the younger brother who returns to his Father because he knows that only the Father can give him what He needs. I want to be appropriately repentant, and reform the behavior, but not for the sake of the behavior itself, or following the rules. Rather, for the restoration of the relationship with the Father that I had when my awareness was heightened through this Lenten practice.

So this is me confessing in front of the Church that I have not been honoring my relationship in the way I should have. I want to repent of this behavior, and turn back to the restoring love of my Father.


  1. well said. I can relate to the struggle.

  2. Thank you. Here's to the freedom that comes in the relationship we have in Jesus - with or without sugar.