Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Tell the rose not to bloom

Full moon behind clouds

Today the first radishes, spread at their cut slices with butter and salt. And the greens, chopped in pasta sauce. Yet it doesn't feel like summer, yet. I guess it isn't—every year I forget how late the season comes.

I've been thinking a lot about the prodigal son. Here's the painting:

I love how Rembrandt echoes Jesus in his telling. Henri Nouwen wrote a whole book about it, The Return of the Prodigal Son , telling the story of the the painting as one of homecoming. How the parable teaches us that even though one son runs off to spend his inheritance on whiskey and women, and the other stays at home to farm, that both have merely the challenge of loving, and being loved. When the prodigal son returns, after being forced to eat pig slop, his father welcomes him. With an embrace, and a celebration. With no condemnation. With nothing but love. All of us are asked to be all three of those people. This, at least, is according to my brother, who's been encouraging me to read it.

I see it in the painting, though. The surrender of the prodigal. The constant love of the father. The qualms of the brother.

How much of my faith is tied into feelings of constant guilt? Perhaps it's being raised a Baptist, or an American evangelical, descended from the Puritans, or just my own familial culture. But I am tormented by guilt.

I feel guilty for not planting kale and carrots and radishes earlier. I feel guilty for not being able to thin my little precious baby seedlings, but then I feel guilty if I thin them. I feel guilty for eating too much, for not doing yoga enough, for failing as a farmer and a writer and a woman and a human being.

I'm not exaggerating. Is it ridiculous? Yes. Am I aware of that now? More. Maybe. Yes. But it doesn't change that I do this whole farming thing, and the business of living, with fear and trembling.

I'm fighting it now, a lot more than I ever did before. And you know what that parable says? That no matter what you do, no matter who you are, no matter how far you run, no matter the ways you fail, you'll always be welcomed by the father.

I watched the movie “Boogie Nights” the other week for the first time. At the end, the young porn star Dirk Diggler, after running away from the family he's created for himself, has lost himself in drugs and has spent all of his earning. He comes back, finally, to the only family he knows. He comes in and says:
DIRK: Can you please help me?



Dirk has broken down in Jack's arms. Jack hugs him and pets his head. AMBER
enters, brings Dirk a glass of water and sits next to them on the couch.

JACK: It's alright, boy. It's alright.
It's another of these sacramental moments, when I realize just how big love can be, just how big it has to be. Dirk Diggler is exactly the prodigal son, as, I suppose are all of us. Or me, certainly. Maybe only me. And everything is forgiven.


Anonymous said...

want to come down to NC on June 21 and meet me at the Wild Goose Festival?


i'd love it if you could! bring a tent.

Melissa said...

North Carolina is an awful long ways away.... Seriously. How about you come up for the Common Ground Festival in Unity, Maine???

Red Sonia said...

It is funny that I am reading this right now. I just spent my three pages of journal and my entire run mulling over regret and guilt at everything, including my running, my relationship with kids, my neighbors, and why I am putting my finger in front of my face as I talk, making it almost impossible for people to hear me. I don't know the answer but agree that I want to embrace the father's unconditional love and continue to work on claiming freedom, with no money left and an awareness of the other life, that I can be content with the father's unconditional longing to be with me.

Melissa said...

I completely agree. How long do we live with regret and guilt, when it's exactly what we're meant to be set free from? "Your yoke is easy, your burden light," Jesus said. Why can't I believe him.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the prodigal son,
there is a wonderful little book [actually you can listen to the sermons it was based on] called The Prodigal God, by Tim Keller. That God is the prodigal one [that is, prodigous]. And don't we all have older son hang-ups and younger son wanderings...

Melissa said...

I feel like the prodigal son is everywhere these days--every story I read or see seems to be built around the same story of trespass and return. So glad you found me! I've been searching for your card since April!