The Parable of the Lost Son
Jesus continued: There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
At various points in each of our lives we can probably relate to one of the characters in this story.
For most of my life, I resonated with the second son. I was a very compliant girl, I did well in school, I rarely got into trouble; life was relatively easy for me. My brother had a harder time growing up, and for much of the last several years, the disease of addiction has kept him away from us (physically/mentally/etc.). The first time he went into treatment in 2008, I actually purchased a bottle of wine named “Prodigal Son” and was going to open and drink it when he was out and “healed.” (How naïve of me – as if it was that easy.)
I’ll never forget the Sunday, sitting in a pew at Bethlehem Baptist Church and John Piper was preaching on the parable of the prodigal son. In some ways I could relate to the, “What about me?!’ as the second son, wondering why the father in the story hadn’t ever really thrown him a party, even though he was the one who really “deserved” it. But it more so brought me to tears thinking, “if my brother does get clean and “comes home,” my dad will eagerly welcome him home joyfully with the biggest of hugs, no matter what.” That’s what love does. That’s what grace does. That’s what my dad does.
On this Father’s Day, since I’m currently without a car and was unable to purchase a traditional greeting card, I’m dedicating this blog post to my dad. He has been the greatest example to me of God’s unconditional love, and he has taught me what it means to be kind (even when it’s difficult), to be generous (even when you don’t have a lot to give), to show grace or forgiveness (even when you don’t want to), how important it is to choose joy (even when difficult circumstances arise), and that progress is waaaay more important than perfection (especially when giving up would be a lot easier).
From coaching just about every sports team that I was a part of growing up, if nothing else, capturing it on home video, to volunteering with the youth group together, to endless memories in Disney World (also captured on video), to our Vikings game dates, to meaningful conversations at the cabin, to laughing so hard our drinks come out our noses, I’m forever grateful for his support and encouragement and quality time spent together.
No matter what I’ve done, I know I can turn to you, dad, and you will accept me with a big hug. Thank you for being such a great father. I love you. (And thanks for getting a “fattened calf” for both Dan and me tonight, even if it was in the form of filet mignon at Chianti Grill.) :)