Breathless, shamed, fearful and wondering. The son looked down at his torn, dirty and tattered robe that had seen better days. His past, his failures and his broken heart were all he had left. Several times in the journey he had thought about turning back the way he had come and staying in his cesspool of a life but instead, he had decided to come home. His tired and dusty legs were tense, ready to run the other way at a moment’s notice. The long journey seemed short because of the dread that filled his chest. He had left with barely a good-bye and had taken his living father’s inheritance. It was as if he had said his father was as good as dead to him. Now he was returning. How would his father feel about him? He had decided that being a servant of his father was more tolerable than staying where he had been. Now he wasn’t so sure. What if his father sent him away? What if his father was ashamed of him? Racing thoughts filled his mind with how he could once again win his father’s approval.
A faint cry interrupted his thoughts and he quickly looked up. His father was running towards him in the most undignified way. Arms outstretched, tears streaming down his face, his father grabbed him in a strong embrace. Wrapped in strong arms, his head rested against his father’s chest and the familiar voice whispered in his ear, “Tikvah, You are my Loved One.” The name sounded strange to Tikvah’s ears. For months, he had been called, “Slave” and a lot of other names that felt like sharp arrows to his already wounded heart. He had answered to Loner, Slave, Too Much, Not Enough, Angry One, Shameful One, Unloved One and so many other names, he had forgotten who he was.
“Tikvah,” his father whispered, “I have loved you every day of your life. I knew you from the day you were born and I am so glad you have come home. You are mine and you belong here.” Tikvah’s father shouted up to the house, “Tikvah has come home! Quick grab the best robe for him and put the family ring on his finger!” Turning to Tikvah, he compassionately said, “Son, the clothes you are wearing are not fit for my son. This robe was bought just for you. This robe carries the dignity and honor of my name. You are no longer a slave, you are mine.”
Honestly, this story has become so familiar to me, I began to mentally tune out when I would even hear someone mention it.
As I was getting ready the other day, the Lord spoke to my heart. “You know, a lot of mine are running around comparing filthy slave robes when I long for them to wear robes of royalty.”
I realized when we are wearing robes of anger, bitterness, resentment, hopelessness, anxiety, depression, or sin, so often we look for those who are wearing the same filthy robe. When I sin I look for justification, but even more than that, so often I look for camaraderie. I want to know that others are like me. Somehow, the shame feels more tolerable if I know that others are struggling too. I’m afraid that somehow we’re walking around in dirty robes telling each other we’re okay. “It’s okay if you yell at your kids. Everyone does it.” “It’s okay if you give your husband the cold shoulder. He probably deserved it anyway.” “It’s okay if you talk about this person. They’re impossible to get along with.” When we begin to affirm and excuse our sin, we’re settling for a slave life. We’re hanging out in these slave clothes when God has something so much better for us.
When I focus on mine and others’ filth, I lose sight of the freedom of the Cross. I begin to think I am destined to live in slave clothes and I begin to act like a slave to my anger, bitterness and selfishness. I begin to lose hope that things can be different. Others can only affirm my filth, but Jesus wants to clothe me in His righteousness and only He can do that. What I really desire is wholeness which is really just righteousness and holiness with a different name.
The only way to change from one garment to another is by getting naked. I love that before God ever begins to change us, He shows His love towards us. This love is what gives us the courage to come to the place where he can begin to change us. It takes a lot of courage to become vulnerable, but it is in this place that healing comes. Vulnerability with God and repentance pave the way to a whole and restored life. When we are vulnerable, it allows God deal with us as we really are and not who we think we should be or pretend to be. Through this, God begins to restore our identity. Sometimes it’s a long and slow process. Usually it is. He knows who we are, but we so often don’t. If we know who we are, we will live differently.
I want this for myself, for my family and for future generations but the only way is to not be content with my filthy rags. I need to be reclothed with healing, a different mindset and a different way of doing life.