Life Is Beautiful

A few weeks shy of my 27th birthday, I tapped the brakes slightly on my motorbike, and as a result, went sliding down a rain-washed mountain curve, leaving a 15 foot long scar on the pavement and a barely noticeable bruise on my leg. Shaken, but not hurt, I righted my bike and continued down the mountain in a proper fashion.

A few days before that, I finished reading the book When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi while sitting in the waiting room of a hospital waiting for a health certificate in order to renew my driver’s license. Finishing the book at the hospital seemed fitting, even when I had no reason to be there other than to get a piece of paper.

Kalanithi writes poignantly of his battle with cancer and even more poignantly of his search to find purpose and meaning in life. Somehow when you read a book in which you know the author dies in the end, you read it with an expectancy of being on the brink of learning a great secret of life. It’s like leaning breathlessly over a death bed trying to catch the last words of someone who is ready to cross over to the other side of that blurred glass. You feel that someone that close to death must have a key to the purpose of life.

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Perhaps that is because death and life really are not that much different.

The gist of Kalanithi’s story kept echoing in my soul several days after I put the book down. Kalanithi’s words, the fact that I slid down the mountain, the fact that I am close to adding another full year onto my life, and various other factors turned my mind to take a deeper look into my own life. One afternoon as I was patting one of my K1 students to sleep, a thought exploded in my brain.

If I live till fifty, I am over half finished with my life. If I live to 75, I am a third finished with my life.

I hated that thought and wished it away. It scared me. It made me panic.

You see, I’ve been living life in the same manner that I’ve been using crayons at work. In a classroom of 21 children, crayons are expendable. Once one of them becomes a little stub, it ends up in the trashcan without much thought and is easily replaced.

Life is not like that. But I’ve been living it like that. And suddenly with the realization that I’ve been alive for 27 years and at best have 60 more years left, comes the realization that I can’t afford to live life carelessly. I could die tomorrow. I could die in two weeks. I could die in 20 years. And the brutal fact remains– I’m not getting any younger.

My young students remind me of this daily. One day while playing “doctor” (I was the patient; they were the doctors) one of them discovered the white hairs in my head, exclaimed over them and made it her self-appointed duty to pick them out immediately. Just a few days ago, I leaned over a table, talking to a three year old, while raising my eyebrows. At the end of whatever I was saying, he didn’t respond, only wonderingly lifted his finger up and traced the wrinkles on my forehead. No, I’m not getting younger.

What does it mean to really, truly be alive in this world? This is the question that comes back to me over and over again.

There are lots of good quotes and words out there about what it means to really live, what a life well lived looks like. Cliché. Well meant. Good stuff.  But somehow I’ve reached a point in my life where I myself need to come to a conclusion about what it really means to live.

As I was trying to form a conclusion for this post, I only was able to come up with a hundred more, disjointed random questions and thoughts.

Like these:

Does truly living mean pouring yourself out trying to meet the needs and demands of the people around you until you are totally exhausted in the evening and lack the energy to even make your own supper?

Or is it the opposite, saying no to the needs around you so you can live your private life, follow the desires of your heart and stop and smell the roses and drink all the coffee you want?

I don’t think it means either of them. For the last few years, the former has been the story of my life. On some days I drag myself home at the end of the day, thinking, “Is this really what a fulfilling life looks like?”

But the fight within me continues. I have a hundred things that I would love to do before I die. I want to gallop across the Sahara desert on an Arabian horse with my hair down. I want explore Southeast Asia and visit the deserts of Mongolia and find my way into North Korea. I want to live in a refugee camp on the Thai/Burmese border. I want to write another book, a really really good one.  I want to read books. I want to live at home and appreciate the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of my own culture. I want to live in a Karen or Akha village in the mountains of Thailand. I want to learn another language. I want to live in Tibet. I want to get married and have children of my own.

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Pu’er, China. Photo credit: Sarah Jantzi

But I only have one life. And it’s not my own.

Can I justify doing things to satisfy my own wanderlust and desires?

What do the words mean, “Delight thyself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart?” Am I not in tune enough with the Father’s heart to have my desires be his yet?

What does it mean to enjoy the gift of life that God has given us to the fullest, and yet being in tune to the needs of millions in this world who lack the privileges of money and freedom I have been given? Can I justify using my time and money in following my own desires while others are struggling to simply live?

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Kampong Speu, Cambodia. Photo Credit: Sarah Jantzi

What does it mean to be a Mary who serves?

Is it wrong to spend time reading literature just for the fact that it is well written, even if its spiritual benefit is low?

When is it right to spend money on your own comforts when it is something you could live without?

How do you decide where to pour out your life when there are so many things you love to do and would love to learn?

Paul was an apostle who poured out his life so others could hear the gospel. But did he ever stop on a mountain peak and drink in the glory of the natural world? Did he rejoice inwardly in the beauty of each culture he visited and delight in the different stripes and colors of each country?

This life is beautiful. The people and the world around me are beautiful and deserve to be noticed and gloried in. There are hundreds of amazing accomplishments of humanity that should be celebrated, not because of the human ability behind it, but because of the gift of talented brains and gifted hands that God has given us. There are hundreds of beautiful cultures and customs that express the image of God.

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Chintaluruh, India. Photo Credit: Diana Weiler

To sum it up, the question that remains is, “How do I live and taste this beautiful life to the fullest, without getting wrapped up in things that take away from the purpose God has given me?”

What do you think? I would love to hear from you.

Fog

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Suddenly I plunged into it. Up and upward I climbed, deeper into the heart of the mist. The echo of the Chinese tourists’ jabber faded and nothing remained but the winding road, the forest and the fog. I was alone in the world. Curve after curve we went, the fickle fog wisping in the hollows and around the mossy tree trunks, now fleeing in fear, now advancing recklessly, reaching around my hands, my neck, my arms, chilling me with welcome numbness. We climbed up  and then bounced down, my motorbike and I, through rutted tracks and mud, deeper and deeper into this alien world. When I stopped at the lookout to pull my camera from my backpack and turned off my bike, the silence hit me with a shout. Only the wind spoke its emptiness in the treetops, like a December breeze in a muffled midnight snow. Beneath me the fog rolled out in an fathomless ocean. I thrilled. I was alone in a world of fog. Alone.

Glimpses

Sometimes I have those moments of lying awake in bed at night and wishing I could take the next plane home, get out of the city, spend time with my family, visit my favorite haunts again, listen to the laughter of old friends, and tear down the road in a madcap gallop on a sorrel horse.

I do have those moments. In no small measure. But on the other hand, I also have moments of pure joy as I experience life in Southeast Asia.

It helps to count those moments. To look at pictures of them and savor the beauty and the joy. And the laughter. I face a thousand decisions a day and one of the decisions that come up the most is whether to laugh or to cry. Or lose my patience. And when I do make the right decision to laugh, it’s always a relief. Like the time I walked into the bathrooms after naptime and caught three of my three year old male students sleepily peeing into the toilet all at the same time. Sadly, the funniest moments are usually the most difficult to snap a picture of because they come at unpredictable moments.

Below are several snapshots of what life has been like in the last month. Beauty, laughter, and just plain cuteness.

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This is what life looks like for me most of the time. Minus the green and yellow. We only wear these uniforms Wednesdays and smile with relief when the day is past. This photo was taken at Wisdom Tree Home during the exercise part of the day. The rest of the day is spent teaching, playing, eating, napping, and prepping for more teaching. In my room alone, we have 20 students, age 3.

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This is Peem, one of my more solemn students. And sleepiest.

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We get lots of giggles, as shown in the picture above.

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Sometimes its really hard to wake up from naps, even when our blanket gets pulled out from underneath us.

We do art projects, we just simply look cute with our curls, we find worms and we fall asleep at the table. A lot.

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Sometimes this happens!

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Going to the market on Monday night is bound to bring me some sort of joy, whether its talking to the vendors, seeing people I know, or a tasty bite of fried chicken strips.

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One thing that keeps me sane is horseback riding, usually done on Saturdays.

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We got to go to a Karen wedding one Saturday.

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These two, a coworker and her daughter, keep me in laughter.

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And these two make me smile.

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We went to Maun Jam, a local mountain lookout one Saturday.

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At a local village, we spent some time with the children and later watched them play this game similar to volleyball.

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Sometimes just looking at the sky brings me all kinds of joy.

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One Saturday we spent time with a Thai friend at a 3D Art Museum.

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And when you combine rivers and coffee, life just becomes too much to handle. 🙂

Child That Never Really Was Mine 2

It’s now close to two years that I saw him last. Be was my first student at Wisdom Tree Home, and the one that left the most lasting imprint on my heart. I stumbled across a picture of him yesterday and floods of memories came back. Here is a poem I posted two years ago of him. I felt it would be appropriate to post it again.

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I miss you, I miss you, child of my heart

(Child that never really was mine)

Eyes so deep you’d think you’d drown

Drown in those tears of salty brine.

But child, child, I miss those hands

Brown and small that clung to my own

Clung to my hands and held to my heart

But now I hold alone.

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The last time I saw you, child of mine

You looked so fragile and skinny and small

And I don’t know if I’ll ever again

Walk this way and hear you call

But child, child, I’ll never, forget

The way you hugged me that one last time

Child, I love you, no words can say

(Child that never really was mine).

-June 2015

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Book Giveaway

A friend who blogs at Properties of Light is doing a book giveaway. Check below for the particulars!

Well, I got this in the mail today: It’s the advance reader copy of Anything But Simple, scheduled to come out the end of July. To celebrate having made it this far, I am going to host my very first giveaway! Anything But Simple will join the Plainspoken series put out by Herald Press, and…

via Giveaway: The Plainspoken Series — Properties of Light

Respite

When the silence falls around me

At the ending of a day

Come read to me a simple thing

In a simple way

 

Please do not speak to me

Of promises to keep

Or of the many, many miles

To go before I sleep

 

Tell me not, my friend,

Of battles yet to fight

Of hands to lift, hearts to seek

And torches yet to light

 

Tomorrow I will rise again

In morning’s blood-red glow

Take my weapons in my hand

And go to  meet the foe

 

But oh, I am tired tonight

And the silence to me sings

Let me only rest and listen

To the words it brings.

 

For I am just a little speck

Beneath a raging sky

A sky that covers a billion souls

And comes to crush me where I lie

 

I know, I know of swords to bear

Lands to claim and forts to keep

But, I beg, let me stay a while

In these woods so lovely,

So lovely,

So lovely, dark and deep

-written on Doi Pui, February 2017

The Rats in Our Lives

One of my housemates gives them names. The other one can’t bring herself to kill one if she has the chance. I throw water bottles at them.

They’re a constant problem at our house, these rats and mice. One morning a little over a year ago, I woke up at 3 in the morning. In my groggy, half-awakened state, I heard an odd rhythm, the scraping sound of furniture moving, belongings being shuffled around rather frantically, and a methodic thumping. I lay there for a good 3 minutes, trying to gather up enough mental energy to make a conclusion of what was happening. Finally, it dawned on me and I croaked as loudly as my 3 AM voice would allow.

“Brit, are you killing rats?”

A weak answer floated back, “Yes.”

When I got there, her room looked like a war zone. Everything was on the bed that could possibly be there and whatever couldn’t be was arranged in a path to channel the said mouse (not actually a rat this time) into a trap. The sad part was she couldn’t bring herself to kill it, so she handed me the broom.

At that time of the morning, you say odd things. I am told that I said, “I can’t kill them unless I’m really mad at them” and then went ahead and savagely killed it.

We’ve had them long enough that we’ve become calloused to them. They create material for good stories to freak out moms and sisters at home. Like the time one of them ate a snack on the drying rack and had the audacity to leave shreds of mango on my newly washed underwear. Or the time I heard one in my closet and as I was hunting for it, I leaned my hand against some blankets and it came squirming out from underneath them. Or the time they chewed up an entire cloth runner since butter had melted on it and they craved the flavor.

We’ve found ways of coping with them. They come in from the kitchen, so we close the door to the rest of the house so they can’t get in there. That doesn’t actually work since they can climb through the open window that goes from kitchen to the hallway. We’ve learned to cover up or put in the cupboard any food that is edible, even if it’s in a plastic bag because plastic bags are barely barriers to chew through. Lately I’ve started to put out poison. We found the smelly results under the couch a few days later.

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About a year ago, some friends of mine were here. The guys in the group had pity on us and went out and bought some dry cement and filled up the holes in the kitchen so the rats couldn’t come through again. It worked!

For a while. Then they learned that they could come up the washer drain. And the dry cement began crumbling and a little hole appeared large enough for them to come through again. Now at night we hear skitterings and crashings and all sorts of noises coming from our kitchen. And in the gutter, we can hear dreadful squeakings and shriekings. For some time I was sure there was one in the agonies of death, either that giving birth to another generation of unprincipled rodents. (Do rats have labor pains? I wonder.)

Every time another episode in the rat saga occurs, we look at each and shake our heads and say, “Guys, we really need to do something about these rats!”

But no one does anything. We get used to them. We work from Monday to Fridays in slightly stressful jobs and no one has the energy to do anything about them when we get home. They are a nuisance, but not a constant pain. And most of all, we don’t really know what to do about them. How do you fully plug up those holes anyway? We helplessly ignore them and secretly hope that eventually they will go away. Either that we’ll do something about them tomorrow.

But they don’t go away.

In a way, each of us has rats in our lives too. Rats of a different ilk.

It’s that niggling feeling that you get when talking with someone else and you’re not sure exactly what is niggling. It’s that sense of dread that comes over you when you’re listening to a sermon or reading a book and something is said that suddenly takes you in a deep, downward spiral. It’s that feeling of inadequacy. Shame. Anger. Bitterness. Fear. Or a feeling you can’t even name.

Sometimes the feelings are so quick and passing that we don’t even realize they exist. We rush on through our day, intent on doing our job right, so intent on getting to the next thing that when we have time to sit and reflect on what happened, it’s burrowed itself down deep enough we don’t feel it anymore and it takes too much digging to get it up again and deal with it. Or we forget that it even happened or we don’t have the energy to deal with it.

Sometimes it’s more obvious than that. Sometimes it overshadows whatever we do and we struggle to put one foot ahead of the other, because of this feeling of dread that hangs over us, but we feel helpless and overwhelmed when we even think about doing something about it

Usually these rats come stealing in at our lowest points, when we stretched thin, when we’re facing stress in our daily lives, when we’re dealing with raw pain, or when we’re  lonely.

And what do we do with them? Sometimes we put up walls. We put everything edible into cupboards so the rats can’t reach them. Or we only close the kitchen door to certain parts of our lives so they can’t enter into the living room. In reality we are saying, I will only be bitter about this part of my life, but I won’t let it affect the rest of my life. But eventually it does affect that part.

Sometimes we put out poison for the rats. This works to some degree, and there’s a need for this. But after a while we get tired of cleaning up the smelly mess and always dealing with new ones coming in again.

We need to plug up the holes. As long as the holes are there, rats will come in. And we will need to deal with them.

Those rats, those ugly thoughts and feelings that come twisting out of the woodwork when we’re not looking, aren’t really the problem. The problem is the holes in our lives.

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Most of those holes were created when we were very young, between the ages of 0 and 8. These are the formative years of a child’s life. Forgive me if this sounds cliché. Sometimes I myself get tired of people harping that you have to dig into your childhood to find the roots of all the problems that are present in your life currently.

But often the most cliché things are cliché because they actually are true. The painful things that happened when you and I were young and the way we reacted then becomes a pattern for how we twistedly deal with life presently on a daily basis.

That’s why if we don’t deal with that point of paint that happened when we were six, it becomes a building block for future patterns of “fixed” thinking.

Recently I heard it explained in this way. Painful or traumatic things that happen to us in our lives are like hooks that are thrust into our hearts. As long as we don’t forgive or don’t deal with that pain or issue, we provide a hook for future events to hang on to.

We can clean up the mess from the rats every morning (and believe me, they leave a mess). But until we plug up those holes and remove those hooks from our hearts, the rats won’t go away.

The rat analogy can only go so far. In truth, we shouldn’t stop short of just plugging up the holes. In a perfect world, we should go outside and kill all the rats in the field behind us. But anyone who’s lived in Southeast Asia realizes the futility of that. And we don’t live in a perfect world. (Duh.)

Here are a few thoughts that might help with the finding and plugging up of some of those holes.

  1. Find out what you are feeling! This is easier said than done. Our souls are intricate and our emotions a mess. Sometimes we don’t even know we are feeling something when in reality we are feeling it deeply. Ask God to help you become aware of emotions you feel daily. Sometimes He will give you a little push to help you see what you’re feeling, and it can hurt. Be prepared to be hurt. When we open our hearts to actually feeling, it is astounding how painful something can be.
  2. Write down what you’re feeling and find out where it comes from. The writing down part doesn’t have to happen—that depends on what your best way is of processing things. But for me, writing brings clarity and a new viewpoint. And most importantly, it helps you remember. But however you do it, keep track of what you’re feeling and when you feel it. Become aware of the world that goes on inside of you.
  3. Take it to God. Ask Him to show you where these feelings are coming from. Why do I feel inadequate when someone else can do a job better than me, even if I do it well? Why do I get angry so easily when one of my students disobeys me? Why do I feel like hiding in the bathroom when I have to be a part of a large group of people that I don’t know?
  4. Talk with someone about it. There are several reasons for this. Talking with others about it can bring clarity. Recently I emailed someone about an issue I was facing that I couldn’t quite lay my finger on. After the email, I felt like I was able to see the problem from a different angle and much more clearly. But even more importantly, talking about it brings healing, especially when done face to face. Recently I was a part of a group that spent time together talking about issues we were facing and walking through those issues with each other. There is something terrible and humbling in discussing our core pain with each other, but something freeing and healing as well. God can bring deep healing through true interaction with brothers and sisters. Like someone in the group said, “I didn’t know God can kick you in the butt and give you a hug at the same time.”
  5. Remember that it’s not a onetime fix all. I know, technically once you get those holes plugged up, and once you get those hooks out of your heart, it’s supposed to fix it all. But we live in a fallen world. And analogies can only go so far. Even though we do rid ourselves of the hooks, sometimes our old ways of living life, our old patterns of expressing still want to shine through. They are habits. It’s like someone whose been in the hospital and been on morphine for a long time. Once the pain of the health issue is no longer there, the craving for the morphine still exists. In the same way, we sometimes crave for our old patterns even though we have found something much better.

This is by no means an exhaustive look at rats in our lives. In fact, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I’d like to hear from you. What kind of experience have you had with rats in your life? How have you dealt with them?

Young Grief

I was very young, perhaps 4, when I first learned what it meant to cry for someone else.

Oh,  I was an expert when it came to crying. Even up to the age of about 7, I considered it a day of victory if I got through the day without the inevitable tear. But I remember distinctly the day I learned what it meant to feel someone else’s pain.

It was also on that day that I came to the realization that people don’t just hurt on the outside. They can also hurt on the inside.

The knowledge I gained that day shaped my life forever.

 

Young Grief

Cool and gray, clouds overhead;

Slip my young hand into my mother’s;

We walk to the big house

Sit in the rows and rows of people

Who are here because of the little girl

Littler than me

In the white dress

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In the breathless room

I try to draw a deep breath

But there are too many people

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I don’t understand.

The little girl has gone somewhere-

But I’m not sure why or how.

But I do know no one wanted her to go

So it’s sad and then people cry.

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But my mother isn’t crying

And I ask her why

From deep inside the answer comes

“I’m crying on the inside.”

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So I sit

And think about the little girl

Littler than me

In the white dress

Who has gone somewhere

And no one wanted her to go

And soon I too begin crying on the inside.

 

         Originally published in Echoes of Eternity

This My Son

                   This is a fictitious retelling of Luke 15

 

I am the younger brother.

I left home in a mixture of emotions, angry because of various reasons, mostly because of the realization deep down that what I was doing was wrong. Yet I did not see or want to see any other solution to life. Perhaps feeling inferior because I never felt like I could match up to my older brother. Discontented. Oh yes, discontented. Confused. Proud.  Guilty at seeing the pain and tears I was causing my father.

I didn’t know how many feelings were boiling in my heart that day I left, because I didn’t stop to think about them. Instead I stuffed them into the furthest cobwebby corners of my soul, determined not to think about them. I only delved the surface of my emotions and rode on the crest of them- anger, excitement about the future, and pride. Pride, that I was finally breaking loose from the chains of my home and the life I was expected to live, a life pleasing to my father who dearly loved me. I loved him too, but not half as much as he loved me. I called him the dear old man, and thought he was quite tame. Not nearly as exciting as the world ahead of me. So I left. I didn’t expect to come back- ever.

At first life seemed smooth and delightful. I was my own boss, my own decision maker, the manager of my own affairs. I was my own person, and I could live life doing the things that made me happy. Quotes like “live your dreams,” and “do what makes you happy” were my mantras.  I had friends all around me and my natural people-pleasing tendencies let the money flow loosely from my hands to treat my friends to the life I was learning to enjoy so much. I loved people and people loved me. Naturally, they flocked around me.  I loved the attention and reveled in the glamour, the sensual pleasures so long denied me, the social whirl, the feeling of being rich and important. I was finally someone.

But suddenly the music faded. As my money departed, so did my friends and somehow, somehow I ended up sitting in the muck and mud of a sow pen, a solitary figure of broken hopes and dreams. The filth of my surroundings mocked me, and depression and hopelessness set in. I was the offscourings of a world I had given my all. I had jumped on its merry-go-round, and it had used me, dizzied me, ruined me, spit me out in rejection, and had gone on its own never-stopping way without regard to what ever happened to me. As I sat, memories assailed me, and would not stop. Memories of regret and pain, of mistakes done and right decisions undone. And worst of all were the memories of home, memories of younger, happier years that seemed to assault me, while something whispered, “Remember? See what a mess you’ve made out of your life? You were this kind of person back then. But now? Look at you. You’re one messed up person who could never succeed in life even if everything were handed to you on a platter.”

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For days I listened to these thoughts, agreeing with them and not bothering to fight back. It was true, wasn’t it? I had made a mess of my life and where I was now was my own fault. I cowered in the pigpen, helpless to make anything better of my life without the help of someone else, but too confused  and worn and dizzy to do anything. Finally, one day, when I was at my lowest, in the rain-soaked squalor of the swine pen, I knew something had to change. Either my life had to go, or I had to leave the pigpen. I chose to leave the pigpen. What caused me to do it, I wasn’t sure, although I do now.

It was my father calling me home.

I am the Father.

             I loved my son dearly and I cried unashamedly when he left. For days, I watched the streets as I walked through them in hopes of catching a glimpse of his face. I knew he did not love me. He thought he did to some degree, but he had spurned my love and protection, and forsaken all that he was entitled to for only a slice of sensual glory. The day he came belligerently to ask for his inheritance I knew exactly where he was going. I begged with him to stay, but he refused. So I let him go. I knew I could force him to stay, but I could never force him to love me. So I let him go, but I did not give him my blessing. And he left the next morning, not even saying goodbye.

I do not know how often I cried in the next months and weeks and years. In the morning, I awoke and listened to the song of the birds beside the window, but my lips could not move to the song. During the day, I did my work faithfully, but my heart was not in it. Whenever some little joy would steal its way into my hours, I would smile with delight at its appearance, only to think the next minute that my youngest son was not there to share it with me and again my heart would wince with the swordthrust of missing him. At night, in bed, I lay awake, unable to sleep, the dull ache in my chest made worse by the darkness of midnight, longing and crying for him to come home. Oh, how I missed him!

Every day I climbed the castle stairs to the roof where I could see for miles around, including the road that stretched out in the direction he had left. Every day, I stood and shaded my eyes with my hand and watched for a glimpse of him, my son.

I am the older brother.

For a few days after my brother left, I accompanied my father to the roof of the house to watch down the road. Yet my heart was not in it, for I was sure he would not come back. I went to humor my father, and because I was a good son. When my brother left, I was sad, but I decided to put it behind me and move on. I had too much to accomplish to mourn long over his decisions. I spoke with my father in the same way, especially when I saw the sorrow that seemed to multiply day after day. “Father,” I said. “You must move on. You must forget about that ne’er-do-well and move on. You still have me here on the farm, as well as many servants. He has done too much wrong to be mourned over like this. You must move on.”

That was my mantra, “move on.” Get over it. I had “moved on”, or thought I did , and on the surface it appeared like I had. Life was comfortable and quite nice without the tension of working with my brother.

I was the good son and had always been. I was naturally gifted and organized, and became easily frustrated with my brother’s wild and lazy ways of doing things. I could do a job well, and often rejected my father’s offer to help, sure that I could do it as well by myself.

I never realized that my father was hurt by my rejection of his help and that he longed for me to ask him for something. I never knew the privileges that were mine as a son of his.

All I had to do was ask.

We are the servants.

When we heard of the youngest son’s return, we gasped in surprise. “Is it really him?” we asked. “Are you sure?” And then we came to see for ourselves and to rejoice. We helped kill the fatted calf, and set the table for the feast, and then we sat down amidst the music and the feasting and celebrated the return of the son.

You may ask why we rejoiced. Why would we rejoice the return of our master’s son, who had never done anything to ever make our life easier? If anything, he had only made it harder since we saw our master’s sorrow every day, wearing deeper and deeper. And our master’s sorrow was our own as well, because he was as a Father to us and we loved him dearly.

But when he came home, we rejoiced because the ache in our hearts had been ceased, and the crying of our souls had been answered. For we were the ones who had joined hands in prayer, rising early in the morning and interceding for him, as well as late at night. We were the ones the Father sent out into miles of the surrounding countryside to search for him for weeks on end and to speak to him when we found him. We were also the ones he rejected and laughed at when we did find him and pleaded with him to come home.

Because we loved much, we hurt much. But because we hurt much, the joy of his return was so much greater.

For the reward of love is joy, and to avoid the pain of loving is to kill the nerve of joy.

Which one of these four are you?