by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
In the children's book It's Not Easy Being a Bunny, by Marilyn Sadler, young P. J. Funnybunny doesn't like being a bunny. He doesn't like to eat cooked carrots every day, he doesn't like having so many brothers and sisters, and he doesn't like having big ears. One day, P. J. says, "I don't want to be a bunny anymore," and instead, he decides to become a bear, and runs away to live with the bears. He discovers being a bear isn't very exciting and decides to be a bird. Then he realizes he can't fly and decides to be a beaver. He doesn't like to work hard like the beavers so he decides to be a pig. He soon discovers sitting in the mud all day is no fun so he decides to be a moose. Then he learns he can't make good moose calls and decides to be a possum. Unfortunately, hanging upside down like the possums gives him a headache so he decides to become a skunk. However, he soon learns the drawbacks of living with skunks! Finally, he realizes that what he really wants to be is a bunny, just as he always was. P. J. hurries home and he and his family are very happy to see each other. He eats all his cooked carrots, plays with all his brothers and sisters, and realizes that his big ears only serve to prove that he is -- and always has been -- a bunny.
One morning, as I was taking our daughter, Monica, to school, we discussed P. J. Funnybunny and his dilemma. She decided that P. J. Funnybunny and the Prodigal Son had a lot in common since they both ran away from home because they didn't want to be what they were. I told her she was right because neither of them appreciated what they had at home. Then she said neither of them appreciated himself and that's why they couldn't appreciate anything else. (I think when the time comes to hand over the reins, "Person-2-Person" will be in excellent hands.)
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31) didn't appreciate the life he had with his father and his family. He didn't want to be the "kid brother" any more. So he took his share of his father's estate and went out on his own, conveniently forgetting that he was "on his own" only because of his father's generosity. He squandered his money and soon found himself poor. In desperation, he took a job feeding pigs. Finally, "he came to his senses, [and] he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'" (Luke 15:17-19 NIV). We all know what happened next: As he was still approaching, his father saw him and ran to him and kissed him. The son, prepared to accept a menial job and perhaps some measure of his father's forgiveness, instead received love, forgiveness and acceptance beyond his wildest hopes. And later, while everyone was eating the fatted calf, perhaps he even found a way to accept himself.
On July 4th, we in the U.S. celebrate Independence Day. Yet we are not independent from God. Jesus told his disciples, "apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5b NIV). We try to deny our need for God, our need for forgiveness. But, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we should "remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12 NIV). We refuse to accept our need for God because then we would have to accept our own flawed, sinful, inadequate nature. But God loves us anyway (Rom. 5:8), always has, and always will.
"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
"But 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. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." (Luke 15:21-24 NIV.)