Am I Lost in Resentment? (Pt.2)

This post is based on excerpts from Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” 

"How can all my good deeds and obedience lead me to anger and envy?

I long to act out of my most generous self yet I get entangled in a net of anger and resentment. I want to be selfless but I find myself consumed with being loved. Wherever my virtuous self-resides, its accompanied by the shadow of a resentful complainer. Here I encounter my own true poverty. I am utterly inadequate to uproot my resentments. They are so deeply rooted in the soil of my inner being, pulling them out seems like self-destruction. Coming back home from lustful escapades seems easier than returning home from a cold anger, buried in the deepest, darkest recesses of my being. Rationality isn’t a quick fix to my resentment" (Nouwen). 

It is clear that alone I cannot do this. What is impossible for me is possible for God. The Father's love doesn’t force itself on us, His beloved. 

“The Father’s love is offered wholly and equally to BOTH his sons. The Father’s joy of the prodigal son’s return doesn’t mean the elder son is less loved. The Father doesn’t compare them – he loves both and expresses love according to their individual journeys. Each of us have a unique place in the Father’s heart. Let go of comparison and competition, surrender it to God’s love. In the light of God’s love, I can finally see my neighbor as the beloved, as someone who belongs to God as much as I do. Outside of God’s love, everyone becomes rivals. Plagued by suspicions, jealousy and resentments – every relationship is pervaded in darkness, suffering in submission as a victim or enforcing control as an oppressor. These are the options of one who has left the Father’s love” (Nouwen).

“Everything loses its spontaneity – everything becomes calculated, self-conscious, suspicious and full of second guessing. No longer do I trust. Each little move calls for a counter-move. Each little remark and gesture begs for analysis and needs evaluation – this is the pathology of darkness. True freedom I cannot forge for myself – it must be given to me. I must be found and brought home. God searches for me without rest – he urges, he pleads and he looks for me” (Nouwen). He wants to embrace me and carry me to the life I most desire - a true return from self-dependence to claiming my daughterhood. That means I must return from complaining, comparing and resentment.

 “Resentment is the bitter fruit of a need to please others… Resentment and gratitude cannot co-exist. My resentment tells me I cannot receive what I deserve – this is always shown through envy. Gratitude is a discipline and a conscious choice. True gratitude is celebrating the gift of life with unbridled joy. Each time you choose gratitude, you’re freer, a little less self-conscious and even the most mundane occurrences are proof of grace. We take more risks and practice courage as we live a life of gratitude. The elder son can choose to be the beloved or bitter. The choice is ultimately up to us.” (Nouwen). 

What can you do to make the return to the Father possible?

·      Acknowledge you are lost and be prepared to be found. God is looking for you! You are worth finding. You are not hidden away- you can be found. You can be healed. Rest in Him. Start over and speak with the conviction that you are being sought and will be found. Living in radical trust will annihilate hopelessness and open the floodgates to our deepest desires.

·      Liberate yourself by practicing trust and gratitude in concrete ways in our daily lives. Spend time with someone you don’t get along with that well, or write a letter to someone who needs your forgiveness. Ask yourself: What are you grateful for? What are you going to surrender to the Lord?

We are free to make a choice: stay in the darkness or step out in the light. God is there waiting for you. His love isn’t contingent on our repentance or our response. He cannot give us freedom we will not take – we must be ready. Are you ready to run to the Father this Holy week?