Pastoral Care, Chapter 4: Clean Out the Trash Baskets – Part 1

Someone once said that “life is a diary in which we intend to write one thing but often write another, and our humblest hour is when we compare the text as it has been written with what they had intended to make it.” The gap between intention and reality, between the ought and the is, between what had been hoped for and what has been experienced is not only humbling; at times, it is the source of our greatest frustration, when we see the unrealized potential and also feel our deepest pain of not achieving it.

This is true not only for persons, but also for persons in relationships. It is, therefore, a part of the diary of many families as well. There are some, of course, who are like the hillbilly boy who went around shooting his rifle at trees, fence posts, and the sides of barns. One day a man was following the boy and observed that wherever he shot he always hit a perfect bull’s-eye. When the man finally caught up with he complimented him on his marksmanship at always hitting a bull’s-eye. The boy replied, “Aw, it ain’t nothing. I just shoot, then go draw a circle around the bullet hole.”

Some of us are inclined to do a similar thing when it comes to being honest about ourselves and our families and the diaries we have written of our lives. In contrast, allow me to share something I learned from my mother, who was a very loving and gracious lady. She taught me that you don’t have to be perfect; just forgiven. This is not to say that she did not expect the best of me. She did. However, she also accepted my humanness and immaturity; and even when she was disappointed in me, and had to discipline or punish me, I still knew that I was loved and would be forgiven. I knew there would still be a meal prepared for me at the regular time, cleaned clothes which she washed and ironed, and a comfortable place to sleep when I went to bed. The beauty of our relationship was that I did not want to take that for granted. Because of her love, I wanted to try to be more and to do more to please her. So I first learned the meaning of grace and of forgiveness in my home; and I see it as one of the great needs in families today. If I were asked to pick the one dominant image I have of God, I would most want you to remember, it would be of the loving father in the parable of The Prodigal Son. It is so familiar to us that we often forget its message.

The father gave his son his inheritance with no strings attached. The son went away and squandered it on wine, women and song, until it was all gone. Soon he found himself living with the pigs. Then one day he came to himself as he read the diary of the life he had lived. He realized how different things were from what he hoped they would be. So, he decided to go home, not as a son, but to ask for a job. When the father saw him coming he did not wait and sulk. He ran to meet him. He did not ask sixty questions and give forty quick judgements of “I could have told you so.” Nor did he chastise him for wasting the money. He threw his arms around him, put his best robe on him, and threw a party.

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