A retelling of the Prodigal Son based on Luke 15:11-31.
I have two sons. A few years ago my youngest came to me asking for his inheritance—no. He didn’t ask. He begged. He wanted so badly to go out and see the world. We didn’t always get on and he was angry at what he felt was my unfairness. Eventually, I relented and divided everything I had between my two sons.
The younger one left. We didn’t hear from him again for a long time. I thought he was dead but he tells me he was living wild. I don’t know all the details but he wasn’t here. He spent all the money and had to work on a pig farm—of all the unclean animals. Eventually he realized that he had it pretty good in my tent so he came back home.
I saw him coming. I was afraid for him. He had dishonored me before more community by asking for his inheritance and then by leaving. He was no longer a part of the community. I had to do something to protect him. I was afraid my neighbours would see him and kill him because of how he had dishonored me. I ran out to greet him. I put my arms around him. I gave him gift of a ring to show that he was still my son and to show forgiveness for the dishonour he had caused. We went home and I had the best calf killed and threw the biggest party the town had ever seen. I had to appease them some how. I had to repay the dishonour from my son with honour for my friends and neighbours.
My older son had been working in the field. He came home and heard the music, saw the dancing, smelled the calf cooking and was angry. He refused to come to the party. He complained to me, “I have worked hard for you and you never threw me a party. It isn’t fair. How come my brother who dishonours you gets a party while, I worked hard for you receive nothing?” I said to my older son, “you have worked hard but they would have killed your brother. He was dead to us but he has come back to life. He was lost and now he is found. Come join the party for honour restored and your brother’s return.”
We hear this story and think that father was so glad to have his son back but in reality he had to protect his son from the community and even from his own brother. By extending honour to the son who had dishonoured him, the father placed him under his protection. This story reminds me of families where there might be addiction or mental illness and a child goes off again and again and returns home again and again to safety and love. How difficult it is for those on the outside to understand second and third chances. Like the older brother in this story, friends and neighbours might ask, “Why do you let your child take advantage? Why don’t they just grow up?”
The father in this story was not willing to give up on his son—even if the rest of the community disowned him. Sometimes, we might find ourselves as the son who must return. It is difficult to go back when we have wounded someone. It takes courage to go back and acknowledge our brokenness and admit wrong doing.
Lent invites us into exactly those places. The season of Lent is an opportunity for us to med relationships—to go back to people we have wronged and acknowledge our brokenness. We acknowledge the brokenness not knowing how it will be received. We also need to be open to seeing the brokenness in others and responding with compassion to their vulnerability.
God doesn’t give up on us. We cannot give up on ourselves. We cannot give up in each other.