Day By Day #2 - Emotionally Healthy Relationships Day by Day

Day by Day #2

MORNING/MIDDAY OFFICE

Silence and Stillness before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading: Luke 15:20–32

But while he [the younger brother] 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. . . . 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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. . . .”

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Devotional

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we learn that whenever we wander from the love of the Father, we are lost. We see this in the younger son who rebelled against his father and ran away from home. We also see it in the elder brother who remained obedient to the Father but was equally lost. He too had wandered from the love of the Father. As Henri Nouwen has written:

The lostness of the elder son . . . is much harder to identify. After all, he did all the right things. He was obedient, dutiful, law-abiding, and hardworking. . . . Outwardly, the elder son was faultless. But when confronted by his father’s joy at the return of his younger brother, a dark power erupts in him and boils to the surface. . . .

There are many elder sons and elder daughters who are lost while still at home. And it is this lostness—characterized by judgment and condemnation, anger and resentment, bitterness and jealousy—that is so pernicious and damaging to the human heart. . . . There is so much frozen anger among the people who are so concerned about avoiding “sin.” . . .

I recognize the elder son in me. Often I catch myself complaining about little rejections, little impolitenesses, little negligences. Time and again I discover within me that murmuring, whining, grumbling, lamenting, and griping that go on and on even against my will.a

Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us how quickly and easily we can become the elder brother—bitter, judgmental, grumbling, jealous, and proud. It also offers one of the most vivid pictures in Scripture of the love of God, a love that invites us to turn to him over and over again, all day and every day.

Question to Consider

In what areas of life might your pursuit of “getting things done” or “doing right things” be more important to you than seeking a loving relationship with God and others?

Prayer

Father, it is so easy for me to get lost in anger, resentment, or jealousy of others, and fail to hear your voice of love calling me home. Melt away my resentments and unforgiveness toward others with your love. And free me to love others with your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

MIDDAY/EVENING OFFICE

Silence and Stillness before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading: Luke 4:42–44; 5:15

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. . . .

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Devotional

On April 9, 1945, German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed for his resistance to Hitler’s Nazi regime. During his years of resistance, he penned these famous words in his book Life Together:

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, had to struggle and pray, and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself; for it is precisely God has singled you out. . . .

But the reverse is also true: Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone. You are called into the community of faith; the call was not meant for you alone. . . . You are not alone, even when you die. . . . If you neglect the community of other Christians, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your being alone can only be harmful for you.b

Bonhoeffer warns us that when we do not take time to be alone in God’s presence, we become dangerous or harmful to others. We may demand people meet our needs for love, approval, and self-worth—a weight too heavy for them to bear. We may feed off others in inappropriate ways and cause damage. We need people, but they can never fully fill us with the perfect love that can only be given by God. For this reason, it is vital that we consistently practice silence and stillness with God.

Question to Consider

Consider your present balance between solitude and community. To what degree is it adequate for you to be growing in love for God, others, and yourself?

Prayer

Lord, I confess to you that I am not sure I can discern the appropriate balance of solitude and community at this juncture of my life. I ask you to lead me on this journey. Help me to be intentional in pursuing both stillness with you and engagement in healthy community with others. I ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)

a Henri J. M. Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son: A Meditation on Fathers, Brothers, and Sons (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 66–67.

b Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson, eds., A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: HarperCollins, 1990, 1995), 332–33.

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