I love the parable in the New Testament known as The Prodigal Son. It is a story that all of us would do well to study whether one is religious or not. It is a wonderful story about the love a father has for his son, even a disobedient son who in essence has mocked his father and spit in his face. There are three main characters in this story, the father, the older brother, and, of course, the prodigal son. I think to fully appreciate the multitude of lessons to be gleaned from it, we have to read it at least three times, for it is not enough to focus on just one of the characters. We must read it each time imagining ourselves in the role of each one of them. How does the story change depending on the perspective of each individual?
I would hope that each of us can relate to the prodigal himself. It may seem strange to hope for such a thing, but I suppose that if we cannot envision ourselves in such a role, we are not being honest with ourselves, for who among us has not stood in need of forgiveness? Who of us has not wronged another human being, even someone we love a great deal? Who has not made a fool of themselves at some time in their life? Who of us has not felt remorse of conscience for an unthoughtful act that has caused one we love such agonizing pain? What does it mean to us when the one so injured is willing to accept us with open arms and doesn’t hold back any of his love? I believe we have all found ourselves in such a position. Our heart aches, we know we are undeserving of such acceptance, and we, with our head bowed in shame, return like the prodigal to his father. Can you imagine the utter surprise and joy the prodigal felt as his father came running to him and embraced him with tears and kisses? It is a thought that causes me to weep with gratitude for those who have played the role of the father in my life and for one who is my father eternally.
After imagining ourselves in the role of the prodigal, we then, perhaps, are ready to take on the role of the elder brother. We all know he was justified in his feelings toward his younger brother. After all, he had been a good son. He had done all of which his father had asked him. While his brother was out making a disgrace of the family name, wasting his inheritance, and living the ‘good’ life, he was acting responsibly. Is it fair then that his father would welcome his younger brother back so willingly? Of course not! Have we not each played the role of the elder brother in our lives? Perhaps we have seen those who in their immaturity or rebelliousness have not followed the rules. Maybe they have wandered off in strange roads until they finally came to the realization that they were not living the ‘good’ life after all. They finally come to know that true happiness is not in the life they supposed and they have an aching to come home. Well, they have made their choice. It would be unjust to allow us to be rewarded equally. At times, it even so happens that the son who has strayed makes even more of his life than the one who had always been faithful. Certainly this is not fair! At times like this, I stop and ask myself, “Jeannie, do you want fair?” When I ask myself this question, I know the last thing on earth I want is what is fair. If life were fair, would I have the many opportunities and blessings which I enjoy? I seriously doubt it. I remember the times that I have been the prodigal and I rejoice that one has the ability and opportunity to come home to the embrace of loved ones whom have been waiting for their return.
Finally, we can consider ourselves as the father. Have we not all been wronged, perhaps even mocked and betrayed by someone we love? Perhaps it is easiest to relate to being so treated by one’s own child, but it is possible that instead of a father one might have to imagine themselves as a son, daughter, brother, sister, or friend who has been betrayed by a parent, sibling, or another person. When this happens the pain can be excruciating. After all, we have not only been hurt, we have been hurt by someone we love deeply. Is it possible to fully forgive that person when they have truly come to themselves and yearn to return? Are we like the father in that we never give up hope, that we find ourselves at times looking afar off in anticipation of seeing them approaching home? As a parent, I can relate to how that father felt. To see a child come to understand the errors of their ways and to have a desire to return would bring immense joy to my heart. I, too, would run to my son or daughter with tears streaming down my cheeks and perhaps they would not understand, until they become a parent themselves, that the pain was never about what it did to me, but rather the concern I had for them. The greatest feeling I know, is not to be loved, but rather to love. It is that love that makes us able to embrace one that has returned and rejoice that he once again is safe in the arms of those who love him.
I submit that every one of us will find ourselves in each of these roles at some point in our life, perhaps even at multiple times. I have learned important lessons each time I have so found myself. I have learned how grateful I am that our past does not have to dictate our future, I have learned that thankfully life is not fair, and I have learned that love is the power that makes forgiveness possible. I will try to remember the lessons from the past as I again play the role of one if not more of these characters. I might even realize that I play each of these roles everyday. Hopefully, I can improve the quality of my performance.
P.S. Want to know some benefits of salt? Check out this link of a video with my friend Lissa Coffey. CoffeyBuzz
Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4 [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]