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.”
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?