Most of us are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son. A man had two sons and the youngest son went to him and ask for his half of the inheritance. The father gave him the money and he went off and partied and traveled and spent it all. He decided to return home and ask his father to take him in. When the father saw him returning the father ran to him, gave him his coat and ring and threw a big party. The oldest son, who had stayed home and worked, was upset and stayed outside and didn’t want to attend the party. The father went outside and coaxed him to come in and celebrate.
Have you thought at all about this story? I have. I wonder what the father did in order to be able to give the youngest son half of his money. Did he sell land or cattle? Did he take out a second mortgage? I wonder how the oldest son felt. Now “his half” was what they were living on. What if there was a financial downturn or a drought or a hurricane that destroyed the house? The younger brother went traveling. Sort of like going to Las Vegas to gamble and sleep with prostitutes and experiment with drugs and alcohol. I imagine that he had lots of friends as long as he had lots of money to spend and that things seemed to be so much fun – the pleasure of sin for a season. When the money ran out and the friends were gone reality set in. Why do we often have to “hit bottom” before we acknowledge that we are wrong and turn from the things we are doing. What did the oldest son think when he saw his brother return? Now, “his half” would become even smaller. Those of us who have a strong sense of justice can relate to how this son was feeling. There is so much going on here.
When people come for counseling with their version of this story we work through some of these questions. How much should a parent give? Often these situations go on for years and years and siblings of the prodigal seem to take a back seat while the parents spend so much time and energy working with the prodigal. What effect does this have on the siblings? Often, the prodigal, isn’t concerned about all the chaos that is taking place because of his/her actions. These are very painful situations and we work on setting boundaries and letting go of co-dependent strategies.
Ah, but what if you are that prodigal? Read the story for yourself. The Father is waiting for you with open arms. He is ready to forgive. After reading the story try writing it in your own words, putting yourself in the place of the prodigal. Below is the story and below that is the my story in my words. I would like to hear from you. Tell me your story.
This story is found in Luke 15:11-24 (ESV):
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.  And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.
 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ‘  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
In my words: In the beginning it was very attractive – the freedom and having things that I wanted.
As time went on, what had first appeared to be exciting lost it’s appeal.
The interesting thing to me was that there was no other person, no letter from home, which said to come back to the father.
It was You, Father, Yourself. I knew that YOU would take me back. I knew that YOU would forgive me. What I didn’t expect was the love and joy YOU showed when you saw me again. I didn’t deserve the ring or the banquet and I certainly didn’t deserve being accepted as YOUR child after giving up my rights.
I confess that I squandered what YOU gave me and I ask for forgiveness.
I am surprised that YOU showed such great love to me.
I thank YOU for YOUR forgiveness and acceptance.
I can never repay what YOU have done for me.