This past Sunday we continued our year-long exploration into relationships. For the next few months, we'll be delving into the concept that all of our life's journey is sacred. Too often we falsely assume that the difficult, and even shameful, parts of our life are supposed to be hidden, are of no worth, and irredeemable. This concept may be true in our modern culture, where we posture for power, prestige and recognition. However, in God's view, it is our weaknesses, failures, and dare we even say, our sins, that are the gateway to life and redemption.
In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus gives us a new way to view our life's journey. The younger son leaves home and sets out to make his own way in life (taking his inheritance with him). He builds his identity, seeking pleasure and likely power and prestige. This leaving home is a necessary part of the human journey. The Father (whom Jesus uses to represent God) doesn't chase after his son. He respects the choice of the son and knows that he must make his own way. And so it is true with us. We need to leave our family of origin, and discover/create our own identity, values, and place in society. In this process of leaving many of us, like the younger son, make a whole host of mistakes and "squander our inheritance." But it's precisely this "squandering" and the resulting devastation that brings us back home.
The elder son too, though he never left home, made his own way in life. Choosing to remain at home, he built his identity, worth and value on his performance and his service to their father. The elder son, however, when confronted by his brother's return, turned bitter, angry and refused to come home. Externally, he did not squander an inheritance but internally he squandered (wasted) a greater "inheritance"- the love and that was always available to him from the Father. We too can find ourselves in this son's story. Often we "serve" God (do good deeds, attend church, tithe, etc.), but we do so out of obligation, guilt, shame, habit, etc. Eventually, however, if we continue down that road (if we are honest) we feel alienated, short-changed, angry, abandoned and bitter. But it is precisely in this state of alienation that we can finally turn and return to our true home, even if we never left physically.
The Father comes to both boys and offers the same thing- His love, grace, and invitation to join in the love of the family. I think Jesus is letting us in on the heart of the Father for each one of us. Both boys, like each of us, have "squandered our inheritance." And it is like the Father says to them and to us, "no matter the squandering, it's part of the Journey, what matters is that you come home as my beloved."
Reflect this week:
Have I come home as His beloved?
By Babs May-Clark