Last Sunday, I taught, and was taught, a lesson about the Prodigal Son. If you don’t already know the biblical version, go see it here. My version starts out differently, because he wasn’t originally my son, so I didn’t hand him 1/2 (or even 1/10) of my fortune. Instead, he was born into a bad situation. I guess that doesn’t make him “prodigal” by the definition of the word. But that’s OK, because the lesson is the same.
He grew up in relative poverty. He had, through the years, been bounced from house to house, from family to family (4, not including mine, that I can list off the top of my head just from the stories he tells). He met me one day and started paying attention to how I treated the people around me, himself included.
He came to the conclusion that even the people that I paid to help around my house, or around my shop, were treated well. He couldn’t help but want a piece of that. He started working for me, first on a volunteer basis, then various arrangements were made. He got paid. In pure dollars he got paid more than my own kids … but he was spending much of it on basic needs where my own children never had to do that. I bought the shoes for his feet, I fed him, I worked hard to improve his life where I could.
Eventually, he moved in as part of the family. He got a room of his own, even though it displaced one of the other boys. I rented him a cello, even though his brother has been wanting a drum set for more than a year. I bought him a laptop, new clothes, and more. When my wife asked, I looked to her with my bleeding heart worn on my sleeve and said “We agreed to help!” … we argued.
Then his brother, who had been displaced, came to me and said “WTF?!?!? How can you treat him like that? I’ve been wanting things for years, but he gets what he wants at the drop of a hat!”
And we had long talks. He understands … some. It hurts … everyone.
So … I have to say:
To Topher: You are my son, who was dead and now is alive, who was lost and now is found.
To Ethan: You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we have to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and now is alive, he was lost and now is found.
I always thought I understood all the players in the Prodigal Son story. I knew it to be about celebrating the joy of the return. I knew it to be about the Father being generous and forgiving. I always identified with the older brother. I was wrong. I never knew how much it hurt from the Father’s side. I never understood, but I’m starting to. How could the dad do anything different? He knew, before it began, it would hurt everyone involved. But he couldn’t live with himself … couldn’t survive … with any other outcome.
I know I couldn't ...