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River of Light

The book is a treasure:
Home Tonight~Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son
By Henri J.M. Nouwen
(A guide to Finding Your Spiritual Home)

Some books, you hold them in your hands and you just know that you and that book are going to be intimately acquainted. When I found this one, wrapped in tissue for my birthday last week, a gift from my friend Irene, I was so excited.
The book cover is a warm orange, fading to gold in the centre, and the pages are thick and irregularly cut. It feels good in the hand. Inside the front cover flap, is a small reproduction of the Rembrandt painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son.

I have loved the heart of Henri Nouwen ever since I first began to read anything of his that I could lay my hands on, many years ago. I love his vulnerability and honesty; his willingness to just be real. His courage in doing so has dared me to be open about my weakness, and taught me that vulnerability brings freedom, and usefulness to God.

This morning, although the day plucked at me insistently and urgently, I resisted its sticky fingers and stole away to my arm chair with Henri. First I prayed, trying hard to ignore the jumpy nerves that urged me to rise and be "doing." I pinned myself to the chair like a butterfly to a display board--willing myself to be immobile. How hard that can be!

I read a little and slowly. "Look at the picture," said Henri, and "Journal what you see in the light and the dark." Well, he didn't say it quite so abruptly you know, but if you want to hear from him directly, you will have to read the book.

At first I thought, "Journal? No, I will just read a little." But something (or Someone) nudged me, "Don't miss the gift in writing what you see." So, I slowed myself down a few degrees further, and picked up my pen. I looked at the picture and let it speak to me. These are the simple thoughts that came, calming my racing brain as they did:

The light in the picture falls like a river from above, illuminating the father and the son in an image of grace and love being given and received.

The one who wears rich robes of status and wealth, bends to embrace the kneeling one in tatters and rags.

Clean hands touch filth, in gentleness and acceptance.

The head of the kneeling figure, rests upon the chest of the father, as if listening to his heartbeat.

Shadows and darkness surround the figures, holding hints of half hidden forms. But father and son are lost in this moment of time, completely aware, only of each other.

Later in the day at a team meeting, I shared the picture and read the scripture passage containing the story: Luke 15:11-32. I asked my team mates to share their reflections. Thoughts were shared. Some were familiar with the painting and one pointed out that one of the father's hands is feminine, the other masculine. In those brief moments at the start of the meeting, the painting was a catalyst for the Holy Spirit. May it be so for you, dear readers.
Luke 15:25-32 (New Living Translation)
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”


Deidra said…
I am always so thankfully humbled when I am welcomed back by the Father. Thank you for sharing this.
Belinda said…
Me too, Deidra. I am grateful that our God has ever open arms.
Brenda said…
My therapist recommended that I read the book and I LOVED it. As she escorted me out of her home that day she pointed me in the direction of the living room where a large reproduction of the painting hung. We gazed on it together for a long time.....then she pointed out the hands......
Amen said…
The father's love makes it so easy for me to forgive others; because I know I don't deserve His love. The father's love is my heart's blanket. It keeps my mind safe when people and life get confusing.
In His arms I am safe, I find my worth and I'am hopeful for a better, brighter tomorrow. Thank you Father for your love. Thanks for sharing Belinda, lovely post.

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