It's taken me a while to get around to the younger son. I've so identified with the elder. I have begun to imagine the relationship between the brothers, but it's a further step to put my feet in the sandals of the younger son. Still...
If I'm honest, there are times I'd like to run away from home. Give me my inheritance. I'm tired of the rules. I'm tired of the responsibilities. I want to eat, drink, and be merry.
Why is it so much easier to own the older son part of me, the part that is crabbed and resentful and not so much fun? Why is it so much harder to say, And underneath, I'm someone who wants to hang out and have a good time.
Because I see the younger son only as selfish. By asking for his inheritance, he basically tells his father he wishes the old man were dead. By leaving, he saddles the older son with all the work of running the farm. And yet...
I envy him. There's a part of me that knows I'd like to do what he does; I just don't have the nerve. It's easier to judge the younger son than to admit that I have the same desires, even if I don't act on them.
Of course, my running-away-from-home fantasy doesn't include the part about running out of money. Or the part about slopping the pigs. Or the part about nearly starving to death. Or the part where I have to come crawling home. No, in my fantasy it's all the fun and none of the hangover.
But it's not really the pig sty I'm afraid of. I'm not afraid of where I'll end up, but of the dust-up I'll leave behind. I'm not so afraid of where I might go as of what judgments I might stir up in my wake.
Because I'm not so sure that everything about the younger son is so very bad. Sure, running away and leaving it all behind is a questionable strategy, but isn't there something between the younger son's grab for his share and the older son's inability to join in the party? Is there a place we can find where we can both, older son and younger, help out around the farm and still enjoy sharing the fatted calf?
For Entering In...
- Wherever you are right now, God is present too. Look around you. Are your surroundings familiar or new to you? What do you notice? Can you recognize that God is here, now?
- Reflect on these questions:
- I suspect the older son feels selfless next to the younger son's selfishness. How do those opposing dynamics play out in you? What do you do that you think of as selfless? Dig deep and wonder, what are your true motives?
- Is there something you do for yourself that you judge as selfish? Is it really? Does it hurt others? Does it hurt you? If so, pray about what it is you really need. How can get that need met without hurting anyone? If it doesn't hurt anyone, pray about whether it is, in fact, selfish.
- Is there an area of your life where you are being called to pitch in a little more, to take the burden off of someone else? Is there a way in which you are being called to set aside your own burden and celebrate?
- Spend some time in the quiet holding in tension what you are discovering about your inner older and younger sons. Don't try to reconcile them. Notice what God has to say in the dynamic between them.
- Breathe deeply and notice the air as it fills your body. Every breath is a gift, a dimension of the Father's bounty that belongs to us (Luke 15:22-23, 31). Carry that awareness back into your day.