The Father’s Pleasure

My reading today is Luke 12:22-34 and the prompt is asking me to consider what worries and fears I wish to let go of as I begin this retreat journey.

The reading itself is a familiar gospel text in which Jesus challenges his followers to let go of worry and concern. He says: “Look at the birds of the air and the lillies of the field – if God is taking care of them, how much more will God take care of you.” I have always taken notice of those words – they have always been my take away lines and images of this text. However, there is a danger when we read a text and find that take away image early on our way through it – if an image strikes us at the beginning of a reading it can be easy to miss other gems and highlights because we have been so taken with the image that jumped out first. Make sense? I think I have been guilty of this as I have read this text in previous journeys through Luke’s gospel. In doing so, I have more or less missed the words that jumped out for me today – the words of verse 32:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Fathers pleasure to give you the Kingdom…”

Over the course of my faith journey I have often listened as preachers and teachers have spoken about the joy and pleasure God takes in His beloved children. I have a vivid memory of the British preacher, Mike Pilavachi, speaking to a gathering of young people in Belfast, reminding us that God delights over us with singing (Zeph 3:17). It is a beautiful image for sure…but it is also one that, if I am honest, I really struggle with. Perhaps it is the transactional culture of our world, or perhaps it is my upbringing in a place where good old evangelical guilt and shame were always in plentiful supply. Whatever it is, even all these years down the road, and even though I know in my head that God’s love is both full and unconditional, I still wrestle to know or feel in my soul that God takes pleasure in me. That’s why this verse stands out so much – it is a direct challenge to the transactional way I’ve been wired.

What worries and concerns do I want to let go of in this retreat? Honestly, I think it is the concern that I will be the one to get in the way of the Father’s pleasure by refusing to believe and trust in the extent of God’s great love. One of the prayers through all the readings for this week is the prayer for grace enough that I would “trust in God’s personal care and love for me.” May I be open to that grace today, and may i receive it in all the fullness with which God gives it.

“They Shall Not Overwhelm You.”

I began a new prayer journey today. At the invitation of my Spiritual Director, I have become part of a group/community that will take this Ignatian journey together in the coming months. Each day I will have a set reading in my prayer time. My intention is that I will journal a response to the readings/prayer prompts.

Today’s reading is taken from Isaiah 43:1-7 and the prompt given me was to consider what images and words pop out for me in the reading, who God is for me, and to ask how God see’s me.

The words that popped for me in the reading of the text were the assurances in verse two:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.

The specific words that caught my attention are those highlighted in bold and italic above.

The pandemic journey of the last 18 months has been one that has consistently felt both overwhelming and consuming. So much of life and work has changed dramatically during this time. Whether the image of difficulty is that of water or flames, the statement by the prophet that these times will not overwhelm and will not consume are encouragement for me and are food for my troubled soul.

When I reflect on who God is for me in light of this reading, I am going to say that God is my sustainer, that is to say I am sustained through this whole thing by God. I am quite convinced that without God’s grace and the sense of God’s call, I would have crumbled long ago. God has and continues to sustain me.

When I consider how God sees me in light of this text, I conclude that God sees me as His own – worthy of protecting, worthy of having been redeemed, worthy of sustaining. This was good news for me as I prayed and read this morning. It’s still good news as I journal tonight. I’m thankful.