So much has been written about this parable, it is hard to imagine that there is amy more to be said. But one day I put myself in their shoes for a while and some interesting things began to emerge that I had never seen before.
When I put myself in the role of the Younger Son
I want to get away. This place is holding me back. It’s between me and my dreams. What’s more, I shouldn’t have to wait.
Suddenly I’m thinking — I’ve always thought of this in terms of the family I grew up in (like the prodigal). Always holding me back, always between me and who I am supposed to be. That’s not fair. It’s hateful, and I want to rip off what is mine and go my own way.
But now I’m wondering about my relationship to God. When have I thought of God this way?
— Where is this “ministry” I’m supposed to do?
— Why do I have to wait?
— Why are you holding out on me? Aren’t I supposed to have more as a kingdom kid?
Or more to the point …
— In what ways have I squandered my inheritance?
When I put myself in the role of the Older Son
I’ve been faithful all my life. Where is my celebration? How can you bless that other ministry? Pay them to do their job? When they are so far out of line! It’s not fair!! I haven’t done any of the things they have done! They teach all the wrong things — putting us back hundreds of years in helping people get free of all the spiritual bondage that the church has heaped on us. I’m trying to tell the truth! Where is my help?!?
What about the crazy way I jump back and forth?
I resent not being noticed or celebrated — all my work goes for nothing. The next minute I’m useless and worthess and have nothing to offer. The worst of both sons!
God, why do I go there? Why am I alwas on the side of rejection?
They both felt rejected, devalued, lost, abandoned, excluded, on the outside. Whether deserved (prodigal) or undeserved (elder). Whether working or partying, somehow they both missed life. Living unsatisfied and empty, feeling unloved or unlovable. Both felt distant from the Father. Neither one felt like they got what was due them.
None of it was true!
The Father had a heart for both of them. They were experiencing distance and rejection because they DID NOT KNOW THE FATHER’S HEART. They could not comprehend the depth of his love for them. Their life view was distorted. Their feeling experience of rejection and a diminished sense of being were not real. In spite of how real it was to them.
What was real was the Father’s love.[ prayer ] Remind me Father / Dad that I’m getting it wrong — when I fall into depression; when I feel stupid, hopeless, weary of my own life.
What am I missing? What am I not seeing?
Most of all I am missing you. I don’t see you, hear you, feel you — and I don’t seek you.
As much as I try, my eyes still focus inward — to my deficits, my pain, my weariness, my loneliness. I keep looking for change, or life, and finding only hopelessness. “What is wrong with me?” consumes my thoughts. [ verses come to mind ] Set your eyes on things above …
Beholding him … we are changed [ question comes to mind ] So how do I behold you? Or better: Who are you really?
You are Life itself. The source. Truly sifficient in and of yourself. You need nothing from outside of you to live — we need everything for life, having nothing within ourselves.
|I consume||You give, pour out|
|I tire, wear out||You never even sleep|
|I twist and distort reality||You are the very basis of reality|
|I have to fight entropy and decay||You are resurrection and life|
|I fear to give||You love to give|
|I fear receiving||You love to give!|
|I question you (the Holy One)||You receive me (the broken one) with open arms|
|I’m easily overwhelmed||You overcame|
|I know very little of love||You are love|
|I despise me, reject me||You love me, embrace me|
|I resist||You pursue|
|I am in th edark||You are light|
|I’m stupid and confused||You are truth|
|I take offense||You forgive|
|I am mean and self centered||You are good to all|
|I condemn||You redeem|
|I sin every minute||You are Holy|
Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and your ways are higher than our ways.
I’m so glad you’re not like me!
I can have faith in you — I can love you and want to be with you.
You are higher than our ways, which is precisely why I can come to you with all the mess that I am, and be with you! — You are the BE WITH God!
You are with the squandering prodigal and the stiving elder. And all that lies between.
Then let me receive!! Just as I feel the sun on my body, let me feel the love and life of your BE-WITH-ness.
More so, because you long to be with. You wept over your prodigal, you pleaded with your stiver. You really want me, and you want all of me — including my despair (which you are not afraid of), my sin, my demanding, my refusing, my self-hate.
Wow! I demand and refuse at the same time, the same thing: Love.
The Prodigal demands an inheritance (which is the Father’s) and disowns the Father (you can’t have it both ways!). The Striver demands recognition and refuses to recognize / acknowledge what is going on.
When I am the Prodigal, I have no idea that that I might be loved. It doesn’t even come up on the radar. I’m not at all certain I can even strike a bargain with Him, a transaction that will work for me, let alone a relationship.
When I am the Striver, I have already made the transaction as far as I’m concerned. And I expect Him to respond to me at that level, and I have no understanding of relationship at all.
Either way, I miss the Father, he is so far out of my paradigm. I am either disbelieving or offended. And I reduce the relationship to a transaction. What utter foolishness to rely on my own powers of perception and interpretation of something and someone I could not possibly comprehend — not because of stupidity, but because of the lack of experience, my own lack of being. Considering the utter other-worldness of his experience and being.
But it is real! He is the God of BE WITH.
If my participation is as foolish as a child shoveling snow onto the driveway or pounding a nail into a board for no reason, then so be it. I want to be with my Daddy!