This morning my Lenten reading was Luke 15:11-32, The Prodigal Son. I understand that the point of the story is that God celebrates when a child who was once lost is found. I totally get that. But, not even a small part of me sides with the older son every single time I read this story. It’s probably because I empathize with him. I’ve always been that child; the one who does what is asked, who works hard and does what is expected. Those who are in the “know” will tell you that Jesus told this story about the Pharisees (the older son), and contrasted them with his followers, the lost and broken (the younger son). But when I read this I get something different from it. It speaks to me, and my own life differently.
I think sometimes what gets missed here is the cry of the older son when he says “You never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” The father’s response is “you are always with me and everything I have is yours.” How much of this exchange reflects our own lives and relationships. We take for granted those people and things that come easily to us. The son in this story is crying out to his father to be acknowledged, to be appreciated, to experience the outward show of love that is being demonstrated toward his younger brother upon his return.
By the same token the father is almost shocked that his son doesn’t know how much he loves and values him. He assumed that his actions, and his daily living were all demonstrations of the deep, and abiding love he had for this elder child. Both men failed to communicate their feelings, and as a result a disagreement, or rift occurred in their relationship.
How often in our own lives, in our own relationships, in our marriages do we play the role of the father and assume that our loved ones know how we feel about them? How often are we the elder son, harboring resentment because we are unwilling to actually communicate our feelings of neglect or abdonment to our loved ones. I think that this is a powerful story about the love of a father for his children, but also a powerful one about the importance of open and honest communication. If you love someone, it should be okay for you to tell them how you are feeling. Perhaps if the elder son had spoken up earlier, he wouldn’t have felt resentful of the time ,and attention his prodigal brother was receiving. Perhaps he would have been as joyful as his father upon the return of one who “was lost and is now found”. And by the same token, we need to be aware of those who uphold, and support us, and appreciate them.
I’m often guilty of that very thing. Our middle son Everett is quit simply the easiest child ever. Sure we have our squabbles, and disagreements but, I have never worried for him. He succeeds at everything he puts himself to, he’s charming and charismatic, and he is fully, and completely capable in life. Our eldest has special needs, our youngest, God bless him is joyfully innocent and carefree. I worry about them, I probably give them more time and attention, not simply because they demand it, but because I want to make sure they succeed. Perhaps you have a situation like this in your house?
I feel blessed that God gives me reminders to spend special time with Everett. To tell him how much I love him, how proud I am of him, and how amazing I think he is. I never want my children to feel less important than one another. I don’t want be the parent who looks at a child with surprise one day and says “of course I love you, you are always with me and everything I have is yours”.
I think the story of the prodigal son is absolutely a story about a parent’s love for their children; a story about God’s love for the lost, and the found. But, I also think it is a reminder to cherish, and appreciate those closest to us; be it a spouse, a parent, a sibling or a child. Make it a point today to tell someone, you maybe don’t say it to enough, how much you love and appreciate them.