At my last retreat I talked about the Prodigal Son. For the first time, this well known parable spoke to me in ways I did not anticipate. I had been looking for a New Testament reference to pull in to our theme, which was “Awaken to the Sacred.”
For some reason, I was drawn to the passage, knowing I needed to revisit it. In this story, I could see myself as the younger son, as the older son, as both sons – longing to be welcomed home by the Father. And, I could see the amazing role of the father, the Father, being of steady compassion. Of leaving judgment aside. Of celebrating each small feat, of cherishing the life and time we have.
And I could see the moments when each son was being called to awake to his own divinity. Certainly the younger son, who had traveled to distant lands, who had left his heritage – when he had lost all of his worldly possessions, he remembered a better time. He remembered a time of love, a time of acceptance. In that memory, I feel his heart tells him it is time to go home. And regardless of the reception he will receive, he returns.
I see myself in the younger son when I am impatient and want to prove to the world I can do things my own way. I can be headstrong and perhaps controlling. Some days I think I know what is best. I am learning that I do not have to solve every mystery on my own. I am learning that sometimes the best things are in my very own backyard. I am beginning to see that there is a plan for me, and all I have to do is listen and remember.
The older son is perhaps a harder nut to crack. He is so bitter, so unable to acknowledge that his own decisions kept him home. He is looking for someone or something to blame for his situation. But oh how his words sound familiar. “I have always been good, and stayed here, and did just what you asked. But Father, you never gave me anything.” The older son is wrought with despair over his Father celebrating the return of his younger son. And the older son is so caught up in his own bitterness that he can’t see the joy that has surrounded him. He can’t see his father’s joy, his brother’s joy. He is too determined to be miserable.
This song reminds me of what happens when we choose joy. When we choose love. When we can remember for a moment that there is something bigger than the sorrows. And this song reminds me of that feeling, that you’ve somehow jumped into someone else’s life.