Here he comes again; the prodigal son returns. Kill the fattened calf. Plan the party. In the background stands the loyal son always laboring for his dad’s affirmation questioning, “What just happened here? He’s getting a barbecue? I have worked my tail off my whole life, and you give HIM the party.”
I never really rebelled. I never really questioned authority figures, never sowed wild oats, never really upset my parents. I was always just there. Caryn, the “good one”; Caryn, the “prude”; that is who I was/am to many people. I fear embarrassment, disappointing the people around me, and following rules always makes sense to me.
Nowadays, I have an amazing marriage and three precocious and wonderful children. I am a minister’s wife. I am still the good one, the loyal friend, the loving wife, and the crazed young mom.
I have heard the story of the prodigal son more than once as the story is retold again and again through media in various formats. I have heard hundreds of sermons on it and every time I walk away feeling sad for the loyal son. I relate to him.
One of my temptations is to question everything. I don't intend to be disrespectful with questioning. I sincerely want explanations. This is how I see the loyal son. "Explain to me again, Dad, why it's so important to celebrate someone who has hurt you over and over again?" The dad explains it simply..."Everything I have is yours, son, everything. Isn't that enough?"
For years, I would let this story anger me, questioning the logic of rejoicing over a rebellious loser who only comes home because he has reached the refuse pit in life and has no where else to go. So the prodigal returns…to mooch…then leave again on the same path he crawled in on, so I thought.
I didn’t get it.
Today, I hope I am a little wiser. Today, I see why that daddy rejoiced and held a banquet for a son he thought he’d never see again.
While I don’t completely understand everyone’s struggles in life, I do recognize that everyone struggles differently with different things. The same temptation I have to go get my third brownie of the day…yes I said third…may be the same temptation someone else has to hook up with their third sex partner of the day. Everyone has a different struggle. Mine, as you can tell, has often been to judge everyone else’s trouble but my own.
Coming home after overeating is one thing, but coming home after wrecking your family emotionally over and over again is quite another. Confessing to overeating is cake…pardon the pun. Confessing to a life of lies and deception is a nightmare. Sometimes our sins only affect us, other times our sins wound countless numbers.
Jesus came and died to clean up all of us; brownie bingers and child-molesters… all of us. That is hard to hear isn’t it? It is hard to comprehend a God that holds us all accountable with our own abilities and with our own struggles, and yet is still just.
Confessing is a humbling business. One must be completely stripped of pride to take the walk home and then to look into their families eyes and hear, “Welcome, we’ve missed you.”
There are some experiences in life where we stand in the loyal son’s shoes. We choose whether or not to forgive. We are after all not the judge, nor the jury. We are, instead, the party planners, the brothers who set the table and wait anxiously to serve the meal. The loyal son, in my mind, learned how to act from the father.
The Father wants all of us to be willing to come home. He wants all of us to strip down our pride, admit to our weakness and stand before him flawed, yet loved. He is waiting with arms wide open. It doesn’t matter how big the transgression is. It also doesn’t matter how small. We made up the sin size charts…He did not.
In the end of all things, we are all the prodigals. We all make the choice whether or not to come home.