“The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.' So he distributed the assets to them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living……….But [the older son] replied to his father, 'Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when [the younger son] of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.' (Luke 15:12-13, 29-30 HCSB)
I knew this parable, now correctly identified theologically as “The Story of Two Sons”, as the Prodigal Son and have written on my blog about it. The worst thing in the world I ever heard was, “You are just like your father.” The first comment caused me, when I left home at the age of sixteen and turned my back on ‘The Church” to hate looking in the mirror because I was reminded of whom I looked like. Granted, my father was no saint and did a lot of things that were wrong but I understand him more and the wounds that he himself carried in the darkness of this world. Indeed, we were very much alike.
I left home at sixteen, boldly telling both my fathers (earthly as well as the heavenly) that I was done with them and would be a shining example of the problematic son that would only bring grief in the telling of who’s I was. A majority of my testimony I’ll probably never tell in one sitting because of the places I went and the darkness I wrapped myself up into. Much like the younger son, whom squandered the inheritance, I was for the majority of my life. I even squandered the financial inheritance my father sent me a few months after I left home. I was, in my opinion, everything my earthly father hated in one of his offspring. What I didn't know is that everyday my heavenly Father looked longingly down the road for my profile to crest the hill.
The greatest thing I ever heard on this earth was, “I was never, for one minute, ashamed of you.” I can remember sitting down in the living room of my earthly father’s trailer on the farm in Gladwin and telling him I had traveled up there to ‘bury the hatchet’ for my own sake, if not for him. I was tired of running away from myself because of who I reminded myself of and I was sorry that I had been a son of whom he was ashamed. The shock on his face, along with the words he spoke, was not what I had practiced for or expected. We didn't suddenly become close, hugging and weeping in each other’s arms and when he passed away a few months later, the intensity of the sorrow was partly for that lack of intimate love a father and son should have had…..but, that step was part of the journey I began to take to understand the man I knew as my father. To this day, I look in the mirror and thank God for the memory that presents itself to me of the man known as Ronald Lawrence Hutson.
I thought my connection to this parable ended there, but my heavenly Father taught me something in the last year that had me realize that this was not true.
Against my heavenly Father, I have been an older son too, especially in regards to the pursuit of His purpose for me. It has been a struggle, fighting the wounds of the past and dealing with the circumstances of my sinful life. I am very much older, physically, than my chronological age because of the abuses I once visited upon a body I didn't care for and the emotional scarring that was allowed in the darkness to tighten and limit my mental health. Much of the last year has been a ‘quieting’ of the ‘What about me?” syndrome that has haunted the lessons and discipling that the Lord has put me through, at my request, because I have surrendered all I am to His shaping. It has been hard, this redemption of my mind and soul, because I've struggled with the concept of love and mercy and grace…..and why, if I was ‘doing so well’ I still faced the struggles I did. Much like the older son, I wanted the bigger portion because I had done the ‘bigger’ growing.
The greatest thing I've ever heard from the Heavens is “"'Son,' he said to him, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.””
As always, I have learned, it is a choice that you have to make; both initially and continuously, whether you will remain outside the party in anger at the celebration of sibling or go inside to raise your heart in praise at what the Father has done.
And that is a prodigal move either way.