Chasing Contentment

Wednesday, April 20

I have for years hated the story of the prodigal son. It has angered me to the core. I have always gotten so worked up at the idea that the one son stayed and did everything right and was seemingly taken for granted by his father, only to have his brother stray and come home and be welcomed with such flourish. I have hated that story openly.

But I have always looked at it from the perspective of the child, of the sibling who got overshadowed and overlooked. It is a running joke that my brother is the Golden Child in our family because my parents continually gush about him, telling me routinely about how wonderful he is while rarely speaking that way of me. I understand the childlike feeling of being overlooked, whether that perception is true of not of the way my parents actually feel. And so, while I don't feel resentful toward my brother (truth be told, I'm just as proud of him as they are!), I do understand the resentment and attitude of the stay-home brother in the parable.

And so I have hated the story with a passion. It was kinda my thing. Mike and I shared silent, knowing smiles whenever the parable was preached upon in services or taught about in Sunday School. It was a tender secret between us, my hatred of the story.

But now that so much of my outlook is that of a mother and so little of it is that of a child, I am coming to see the story differently. I tell Griffin all the time - and will begin to tell Eliza the same thing here soon - that I love him, regardless. If he angers or frustrates or disappoints or hurts me, I will love him. If he fails or struggles or is meanspirited, I will love him. There is no action that could change or erase my love for him, now or when he gets older.

There will be struggles between us. There will be times when we are not comfortable together or with one another's actions. There will be times when he feels like we are devoting more time to Eliza than to him, and there will be times when the reverse will be true. But nothing will change my love for him, not even his or my own shortcomings.

So as I look at that story now, I see the father's joy at having his son home with him, nearby him. And I understand that there would be hurt in the father's heart, but that it would be overshadowed by the joy, and I can see the reception of the prodigal son as a tender moment between a father and a son, and I now understand the connection between the story of these two men and the love and devotion of our Heavenly Father to us, miserable, wayward children that we are.

A friend has been sharing with me the struggles she and her husband are having with his parents, and I keep coming back to this parable as I listen to her situation. She and her husband are the long-suffering, staying-the-course, doing-the-right thing son, and they are wounded by the reception being given to the prodigal son. And I look at their situation and see the hurt, and I know it well, but I also know that their situation is such that it would be envied by so many, many families. I know that, at this moment, I see the life of her mother-in-law more clearly than that of her husband, and it pains me to not be in accord with my friend at this moment.

But I am so deeply grateful to her for freely - without hesitation - sharing her hurt and her need with me because God has used her to show me something clearly about this story, about my children, and about myself. And my goodness, how blessed am I to have friends who are close enough to me to be transparent about themselves, thus giving God an opportunity to teach me something!

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, April 20, 2005  ]


I knew you didn't like the Prodigal Son story, but I was never sure why. Thank you for sharing your history with the story and how your thoughts on it have developed recently.

By Blogger crisper, at 1:49 PM  

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