Sunday, July 10, 2011

Just How Strong is Dad, Anyway?

Recently, one of our pastors spoke on the parable of the Prodigal Son.  I’ve always been able to relate well to this parable – from the perspective of all three major players.  I’ve been the prodigal – in more ways than one.  I think we all have, at some point.  Let's face it, we are all prodigals when it comes to our Heavenly Father; none are born into the family out of natural birth.  Even those reborn at a very young age were once held prisoner by sin and were originally born into this world. 

I’ve been the jealous, petty brother.  I’ve watched people file into church on Easter morning, welcomed with hugs and smiles while I -- Steady Betty, Miss Faithful Attendant -- stand by waiting for someone to be glad I’m there.  I've been petty and simple-minded.  I've wondered why everyone else gets ahead while I, Debbie Do-Right keep getting the short end of the stick.  I've scoffed when someone has pointed out "what a wonderful Christian" he or she is, thinking, "They don't know what he's really like," or "I'm a better Christian than she is."

As the "father," I have heard my children curse me, ask for what is “due” them, and watch them intentionally reject every principle I’ve tried to weave into the fiber of their lives.  I have stood waiting and watching for my child to return, longing to welcome them with open arms, clothe them, and put rings on their fingers. 

Of all three of these characters, to me, the father comes across as being the most pitiable.  Now, I know the father represents our Heavenly Father but, really?  Such a fuss over a prodigal?  I’ve been a prodigal; I know how we are!  Unreliable, opportunistic; here today, gone tomorrow.  Try as we might, we can’t seem to keep it together, even when we want to!  And the gentle manner with which this father handled his oldest’s petty jealousies and selfish complaints?  Not: "Where does he get off asking for his due?  His due is what I say it is; after all his 'due' is my hard work, my love poured out in order to build something special, something of substance for him!"  And as our pastor pointed out, the oldest could have at any point said, "No father, why on earth would I want my portion now?  I don't even want to think of inheritance; you are alive and I am grateful.  I love you.  I want to stay here on the farm with you and build our heritage together."  Why didn't that father just kick both of his selfish brats to the curb?

Well, here's where the parable gets personal.  As a mother of a prodigal or two, I know the pain of loss, and the joy of reunion.  Love endures the hurt, the not knowing.  Love seeks to extend its hand, seek out those who have rejected it, bravely risking rejection again.  Love waits and hopes; love controls its desires to quit, as well as its desires to take by storm.  Love seeks to grow enough for both parties, shouldering the burden while looking toward the day when it will be joined with the other.  We do not celebrate the life my child lived while out of the fold, while choosing to remain outside of a mother's or father's love.  We do not celebrate the arrogance, the ignorance, the foolishness, the strife that tore us apart.  We celebrate the forgiveness, the growth, the renewal, the grace of God Almighty that has brought us together again. 

And as for the Father of this prodigal, thanks be to Him for His forgiveness, His faithfulness, His boundless love, His mercy that cannot be understood or defined in earthly terms, but has waited patiently, searching the horizon for my return.  
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