we’ve all had them, they are inevitable – these hard conversations that come our way despite our efforts to avoid them at all costs. Life is littered with hard conversations – but they turn out to be not rubbish, but the stepping stones that pave the way we must take to fulfill our purpose. The older brother of the prodigal son should know, he had one of these conversations with his father. It went something like this, well actually it went exactly like this,
“But he (the older brother) answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” (Luke 15:29-32)
A hard conversation – the older brother felt he wasn’t getting his due. He felt slighted. He resented his younger brother and all the attention his younger brother was receiving upon his return. The older brother was expected to be joyful over the return of his lost sibling but instead he only felt resentment. Apparently, he wasn’t happy with his lot in life, especially when he compared it to that of his brother.
Peter had one of these hard conversations with Jesus, one vaguely similar to the father-son conversation just mentioned. The content of this conversation is as follows,
“Then He (Jesus) said to him, (Peter) ‘Follow Me!’ Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved (John) was following them. . . . When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.’ ” (John 21:19-22)
Peter had received his marching orders but he didn’t keep his eyes fixed on Jesus. Instead he looked around to see what others were doing which gave him the opportunity to compare his assignment from Jesus with the assignments his friends and others seemed to have been given. This led to Peter’s discontent, which led him to question his assigned task, which led him to ask the hard question and have the hard conversation. (hard for Peter, not for Jesus) Jesus welcomes our tough questions, – questions like ‘why me and not him or her?’ Jesus stands ready to have the hard conversations with you and with me. He will always tell us the truth even though often the truth is hard to hear.
Now would be a good time to confess – I often catch myself acting like Peter or like the older brother of the prodigal. Instead of rejoicing over all God has given me, I take my eyes off of Him, look around me and ask why I don’t have what those around me have. Maybe their assignment seems easier, more desirable or more glamorous than mine. I want to have what they have or do what they are doing. But Jesus’s direction to me is as clear as it was to Peter all those centuries ago – “You must follow Me.”
“But Lord, I want to do what my friend is doing. It looks like more fun.” and Jesus answers, “you must follow Me.” “But my neighbor’s path doesn’t seem to be as painful as mine, couldn’t I walk that one?” again Jesus answers, “you must follow Me.” “Lord, if you give me what you’ve given them, just watch what I’ll do for You. I want their lot in life, not mine” Jesus’s reply remains the same, “If I’ve given them riches or comfort or ease or less suffering, what is that to you? You, you must follow Me.”
This is a hard conversation to have and I have it often, which brings to mind the story of the talents from Matthew chapter twenty-five. In this story a man gives each of his servants talents or money but he doesn’t give them all the same amount. We are told he gave to “each according to his ability.” Doesn’t seem fair that they didn’t all get the same amount but we have to trust the man knew best based on his knowledge of each individual. And all he asked of each one was that they make the most of what he had entrusted to them. He did not compare them to each other. He just asked that each one be faithful with what he had been given.
It occurs to me that if I’m busy asking God for more or asking God for something different, something other than what He has graciously placed in my hands or in my path for me to do, if I am looking at others and not at Him – then I am completely missing what He has already given me, I am missing what is right before me – because I’m focused on what I don’t have instead of on what I do. I am focused on my perceived lack rather than on my very real abundance in Christ.
Isn’t that what happened in the garden? They had it all, lacking nothing – yet still Eve was able to be convinced that she should desire something different, something other than what she already possessed – which was perfection – until she gave that up in pursuit of something she was persuaded she was lacking. It turned out to be a lie. The subsequent conversation Adam and Eve had with God was definitely one of those hard conversations.
Instead of asking God why I didn’t get more talents, I would do well to get busy using the ones I have been given lest I lose them. My direction is clear – I am to follow Jesus without looking around like Peter did, to see what others are doing. This led to one of those hard conversations for Peter, but I am looking forward to a different kind of a conversation someday – one in which I hear Jesus say,
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21) and I will hear Him say,
” ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ ” (Matthew 25:34-40)
after all the hard conversations, that is going to be one wonderful conversation to have . . .
sincerely, Grace Day