Friday, November 14, 2014

The Mask of Achievement

I have to be honest, for the past couple of weeks I have been cranky.  Overall, I think that my crankiness is a response to being in a liminal space.  I am also sure that my crankiness is also enhanced because the adjustment to the time change has been difficult.  Okay enough with this digression.

In a recent conversation with my spiritual director, I was challenged to continue to discern God's love for me.  This time I was encouraged to reflect and imagine myself in the "Parable of the Prodigal Son." My spiritual director  suggested the following tool to help me engage in this Ejercicio espiritual (spiritual exercise), Henri Nouwen's "The Return of the Prodigal Son."  So to some extent this blog post is a conversation between Dios, my spiritual director and Henri Nouwen. My hope is that you will also engage in this conversation. 

In my previous blog post, I disclosed that I am an extreme perfectionist.  Given this fact, I have started to explore how this aspect has and continues to influence my relationship with Dios.  So where does the "Parable of the Prodigal Son" fit in this discussion.  Well, I invite you to journey with me and expect more questions than answers.

I would love to focus on each of the characters involved in the parable, and as a perfectionist that would usually be my modis operandi.  I also realize that this would them become more of an academic paper than a blog post.  So for the purpose of this blog post, I will focus on the young son.

When I prayerfully engaged in exploring the "Parable of the Prodigal Son" there was a resonance with the  young son, who chooses to leave for distant places.  I can easily engage in imagining myself as the young son.  The young son reminds me of my relationship with Dios.

I grew up in the South Bronx and was raised in a traditional Puerto Rican family.  All of us in the family had an assigned role with the purpose of fulfilling an integrated image of the family.  Although conceptually I was an individual, the family structure did not encourage any individuality.  In other words, my identity was that of the Perez-Correa family and there was no space for an individual identity of Juan, hijo de Dios.  This push for a nonexistent individuality was also supported by the expression of the Roman Catholic faith that I was exposed to as a child and a teenager.   Now you add a strong ethos for creating a perfect relationship with Dios, and you create a space for distance rather than intimacy.

One of the struggles I have had to face in my life long pilgrimage has been a movement away from seeing a relationship with Dios as something that is achieved.  I think it is a struggle that all of us have had to face in our lives.  The struggle is one in which the loud voices (often from the secular world) overwhelm the soft gentle voice of Dios.  Achievement lures us to distance ourselves from Dios.  I find that the secular world encourages a belief that the attainment of wealth and notoriety will bring about happiness.  However, this as a movement away from the realization that we are the beloved.  A relationship with Dios, Grace, is a freely given invitation.  It is not about worthiness or something that can be possessed. 

I understand why the young son wanted to leave his family.  The lure of the world can be hard to fight.  The son asking for his inheritance was in essence seeking the death of a relationship with his family.   Could the lure of the distant world also be an attempt to identify his identity.  How many of us have engaged is such an endeavor?

The parable reminds us that the father openly invites the son back home.  I am amazed by the father's action.  The son's request and decision to leave is a hurtful act.  Yet the father welcomes the son with open arms.  Could this parable be a reminder that Dios will always welcome a relationship with us regardless of the obstacles we create?  Therefore, could the challenge for us be a willingness to accept that we are the beloved?

Sometimes sitting on the fire escape provides a space to examine our relationship with Dios and the world.

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