13 March 2010

The Prodigal Son

We are all familiar with the Biblical story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-31). Younger, rebellious, irresponsible son goes to his father and demands his inheritance. Father gives it to him. Son runs off to the big city, blows it on women, booze and whatever else he can find to blow it on. Ends up sleeping with the pigs. Decides he is too good for that, but maybe his dad will forgive him and let him work on the family homestead as a servant. Dusts himself off, journeys home – only to find his father waiting for him with a warm robe, a ring and a big party to welcome him back. Yada yada yada - yaay son. Don’t get me wrong: the story is a wonderful metaphor for how God treats us when we stray away from His love and protection – I get it. Love the analogy that no matter what we do, God is willing to forgive and will welcome us back with open arms. Amen and Hallelujah.


Even as a child, I always had empathy in my heart for the elder son. You know, the one who stayed home. The one who was the responsible one. The one who never strayed and never had his “wild time in the city”. The one who stayed home every day, tending the sheep and goats. Where was his party – his robe – his ring? What about him?

I have been on both sides of the story. I’ve been the “prodigal daughter” – thinking I was big enough and bad enough to do whatever I wanted with my life. Praise God I came to my senses before it was too late. I am, by no means, claiming complete victory over anything because the scars of those experiences manifest themselves in ways only God and I understand and deal with on a daily basis. But, I have also been the “elder son”.

It is a known fact that I am the “responsible” one in my family. It is almost a running joke. If something needs to get done, EVERYONE calls on me to get it done. Need a family member’s phone number, address, photograph: call Kristina. Want to have family worship or any other family meeting: call Kristina. (although, my cousin Yulanda has taken over that “chore” recently – thanks BuPee!). Want to plan a family reunion: Kristina can either do it or be the representative on the committee. Holiday meal planning: Kristina. Taking care of my mom: Kristina. Overseeing my grandmother’s medical care after her accident: Kristina. (I’m thinking about changing my name…any suggestions?) And even outside of my immediate family, it’s the same thing. A friend of mine recently sent me an email saying, “You know we need to get together and plan how we are going to feed our families during General Conference in June.” REALLY? Why does this fall on me? Oh yeah, I’m the responsible one. Ask me to do it, and if I say I will, you can bet your bottom dollar, I’ll “get ‘er done”.

I guess all the fuss is made over the prodigal son because it is easier to “reward” someone when they make a radical, obvious change. I mean, if you never show up at any event, of course you are going to be the center of attention when you do walk through the door. It is the people who are “always there” that get overlooked and taken for granted. And as one of those people, let me tell you: that grates on your nerves after a while. In my opinion, the parable never addresses the elder son’s complaint. Yes – I get that we should rejoice over the return of the son…but shouldn’t the elder son get more than just a “you are ever with me and all I have is yours”? I mean, I know I will get my reward in heaven, but can’t a sista get a little love and appreciation here on earth as well? I’m just sayin’.

Further study of the story reveals that there was a lot more going on behind the scenes with the elder brother on a spiritual level. He pictured himself as a paragon of righteousness and responsibility. (Ut oh, is that a mirror God is pointing at me? Although calling myself a “paragon” might be taking it a little far). He relishes his role as the “good” son. (I wouldn’t say I “relish” my role…really, I don’t). The hardness of his heart is revealed in his reaction to his wayward brother’s return. (Hey! My heart is not hard!...is it?) But when the Father orders a joyous party for the younger brother he probably never even asked for (sorry, small digression there), the elder son’s resentment boils over. In the parable, Jesus is pointing out the Pharisees’ resentment over sinners repenting and being welcomed into God’s Kingdom. In my life, what is God trying to point out to me? Hmm…something to think (and pray) about. Pray with me that it will be revealed and then rectified, won’t you?

Until then, be blessed.

© 2010 Kristina E. Smith
Sabbath, March 13, 2010

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