In light of this more static interpretation, you and I may see ourselves as one son (or daughter) or the other: “Well, I said, `No’ to God when I was young, but then I came to my senses, and obeyed.” Would anyone see themselves only as the son or daughter who says, “Yes, father, everything you ask, father, I will always obey you,” and yet in reality does not obey at all? Is that you?
I submit that each of us is both of these sons or daughters at once, or rather, at various moments of our lives. Each of us has ways of saying, “I love God,” and then not following through on the tough and demanding requirements of that love. Each of us may think that we do all that God asks of us. Some others may think that they used to stray, but now obey: “I was lost, and now I am found, was blind, but now I see.” And I say, “Not so fast.” Perhaps you were blind, and see a little more, but you are largely blind, too. We are blind to the reality of God.
If you are at all like me, there are moments in each day of our life when we are utterly oblivious to divine action in our hearts, to listening to God, to following the promptings beneath the surface of our minds. In fact, many of us may live much of our lives in a state of semi-consciousness, in which we may assume that we are “doing God’s will,” loving God and neighbor, but in fact, we may be going through various routines—yes, partially doing what is right and true, and good (God’s will), but often just following out own impulses to “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” or more likely, “Just eat and drink, or do whatever comes into our minds and hearts to do.” Do self-professed Christians truly do the will of the one we claim to follow as LORD? I wonder. And perhaps the more we think we are doing His will, the more we should really suspect that our blindness remains, and we are, to some extent, self-deceived. Yes, I mean you, and me.
I suspect that in any given day, I more often give lip service to God than I wish to admit. How often is the divine Partner gently drawing me to commune with Him, heart to heart, yet I am “busy and distracted by many things”? How often am I not really attending to God, although I more or less blithely assume that I am being good, doing good, being a “good Christian.” I wonder: not so fast, my boy. Am I not really much more like the son who said, “Yes” to God, but then has not lived that Yes every day of my life, every moment, “constantly seeking His face,” in a continual inner communion with the One who is ever present, ever near, always available—if we will but attend, listen, love in word and in deed?
Beat poet Alan Ginsberg wrote in a poem words to the effect that “there is nothing between us but a pair of underpants.” Perhaps one considers it far-fetched to find a divine lesson here, but I do: there is nothing between the living God and me except the “underpants” of myself, my ego, my pretense to know and to be doing God’s will. Am I truly open to reasoning well, to using my mind as God intends it, to think, to study, to question? Am I truly open to the love of beauty here and now, in every you that I meet, in every creature? Do I love goodness, mercy, kindness, generosity? Or do I secretly love power, self-importance, wealth, keeping out of trouble? Am I really as “right” as I think I am. I doubt it.
Is it not the case that I do not truly examine myself to see whether my thoughts and actions are from God, from the dialogue-partnership with He who is, with You? LORD beyond all words and beliefs, beyond our creeds and partially-true formulations, break through the veil of our foolishness, of our beliefs that we really are obeying You, and draw us into your unknown, unfelt depths. Draw each and all—every creature—into your Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is nothing less than the Presence of the living God, here and now. To enter into God’s Kingdom means to open up one’s mind, one’s heart, now, and let the Divine flow in. God is ever present, but we are away. We are so busy with being busy, so caught up in our feelings, thoughts, little deeds, preoccupations, obsessions, “callings.” “Alas, you were within, but I was without.” And that remains true, does it not?
I do not doubt, LORD God, that at every moment You are drawing us to enter into your peace, your joyful peace, and yet we resist, knowingly or unknowingly. We often live in a fog of thinking that our minds and hearts are with You, and yet, we are often not even with ourselves properly: “Getting and spending we lay waste our power…” We spend ourselves in what does not truly satisfy. We may be “blissed out,” but our bliss is not open-mindfulness.
LORD, I thought that I was like the son who said “No!” but then obeyed, but as I mature and examine myself in your Light, I see that I am far more like the son who said “Yes, Sir!” and then really did not really follow through.