31 March 2009

seeing myself in the parable of the prodigal son

in reading further in Luke, we've heard the parable of the prodigal son.

the parable tells the story of two sons. the younger son decides that he's had enough of life at home and demands his inheritance (something he's not entitled to until his father dies). his father graciously gives it to him, and the son goes off and wastes his money on all sorts of questionable activities. when the money runs out, he ends up feeding pigs just to survive. when the food to the (unclean) pigs starts to seem a little too appealing, the son decides to return home and beg his father for mercy - that his father would be merciful enough to treat him like one of his servants. his father sees him returning, rushes out, embraces him, and throws a feast in order to celebrate his return. meanwhile the older son is working out in the field and seems not to pleased about his brother's return - nor his father's throwing a feast for him!

and when i see myself in the story, i see myself as the older son. the good, older son - the one who always did what he thought his father wanted. and who is begrudging the father's grace to the other son. he's not finding it fair that the younger son got more than he had ever received. and the father's words to the older son felt like words meant to make him feel guilty for judging and not being loving.

but this time i heard the words of the father to the older son a bit differently. they weren't the words of shame that he wasn't being nice. they were words of love - to say, silly child, don't you see that i love you? and don't you see how you've got things all mixed up? that love isn't related to the good you do or don't do? (and even being a good child by listening and coming with me now isn't the point of what i'm trying to say?) can you not know that all i have is yours? and that i would love to share everything i have with you, including this joy i have over how someone who matters to me (and also to you) has returned?

and being surprised by seeing myself in the story made me more aware of how i sometimes mix up how much good i do and being loved. or i miss half the story. and i'm thankful that the familiar words in the Bible aren't just familiar old words of comfort but are still living and breathing as part of my relationship with God.

1 comment:

Tom Braun said...

Hmm, I always identified more with the older son as well. Of course in reality we're all prodigals...