Today I am thankful for the parable of the prodigal son.
Today’s sermon was focused on the story of the prodigal son and it hit me a little harder than the story has ever hit me before. I’ve always been interested in the story and have paid close attention when it’s a topic, but this time was a little different. As I start today’s blog please keep this in mind… To be clear, I’m not limiting this to any one aspect of my life, this is as true for every portion of who I am.
In the past I’d listen to the story and consider how great it was that the prodigal son returned and that the father took him back in. I’d be all smiles, and then I’d think about how frustrated the older son was and I’d totally feel his pain. I can sympathize with the poor guy. When you’re dependable, follow the rules and do as you’re supposed to do it is tough to see others receive accolades for reaching a new high or goal specifically because they se the bar so low. I can get so angry when others receive the praise that I feel that I should have received or reap the rewards that I felt I should have had. Why should they be celebrated for finally doing what they were supposed to do and I do not receive anything for doing the same thing all along… As you’re probably noticing, I was totally missing the point and was falling into the same trap as the older son.
It is funny that I always listened from the standpoint of the oldest son and didn’t ever put myself into the shoes of the younger son… Until today. As the story was being read by our deacon I couldn’t help but think of the mistakes I’ve made, the poor decisions I’ve made, the things that I’ve done that I should have avoided. The sins I’ve committed. It finally sank in just how far off the path I have been at times. As Father Mark used to discuss, knowing the gap between who we are ad who we are called to be is where we start to let God in. My gap at times has been incredibly huge. And despite the size of the mistakes I’ve made, my friends and family have not only always openly accepted me and forgiven me, but they’ve celebrated my successes as I’ve battled back from my mistakes. One comment from my brother resonated today and it made me smile realizing the entire point of this paragraph. After I lost weight and got healthy he said that it was kind of weird knowing that I had to get very large in order to get the accolades for being skinny and fit like so many people are everyday without ever being fat and without receiving praise for it. He didn’t mean it as any type of an insult but rather a very intuitive and highly perceptive observation. How true his point is!
So as I’m hearing the parable again and thinking about the view of the prodigal son our priest then goes into the sermon and discusses the other part of the parable that I’ve sometimes missed, I’ve sometimes understood, but I’ve usually not been good at following through on. The point of the story isn’t to focus on which of the sons I feel that I can most relate to, but rather to be as the father. The father not only forgives both of his sons, he never shows anger or frustration towards either of them. He doesn’t lay a guilt trip on either, doesn’t throw an “I forgive you, but…”, or anything like that. He is purely happy to have them both and shows both of them nothing but love. What an example of being who we should be! How many times have I been judgemental, made others feel guilt, taken too long to forgive, or have never forgiven? The father is the role model by which we should follow.
As I started, this old story I’ve heard many times really hit home today. It was a great reminder of the gap I need to continuously work to close everyday and a wonderful example of how I should live. Don’t worry, I’m not full of self loathing or think that I’m a horrible person or anything like that. Stories like today’s remind me of my flaws and shortcomings and help me re-focus on trying to be the best possible version of myself that I can be.