(No spoilers to Thor this week, just spoilers to the story of the Prodigal Son. Click the appropriate link for the appropriate post, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, the story of the Prodigal Son.)
The story of the Prodigal Son is a beautiful story about us—humans—and God. It’s a story that embodies that Whitecloak saying, “No one is so far in the dark they can’t see the light.” There is nothing you can do that the Father won’t welcome you home with open arms.
And I understand this. I understand what this story is about. Inheritance. Coming home. Self-righteousness. Bitterness. How God can be with all of us, love all of us, those of us who wander and those of us who stay.
But people who identify with the prodigal really love this story, and they really love to take this story and pull it out, to read between the lines. They love to say things like, “Oh! Oh! Verse 20 says while the son was far away the father saw him! That means the father was watching for him, waiting at the window for him! Look how much the father cares!”
And it’s stuff like this that drives me insane.
Because for those of us who identify with the other brother, for those of us who have experienced the prodigal son story in our earthly families, this sort of thing causes us—or at least me—to get riled and start to defend the older brother.
Because if you can read between the lines and make stuff up that’s clearly not written there, so can I.
So if the father was always standing at the window, watching for the younger brother, that means he was neglecting the elder.
And I know what it’s like to sit at the dinner table and listen to your parents talk non-stop of the prodigal son, worrying about him, wondering what he’s doing, trying to figure out when he might call, how they might get in touch with him, while you sit there quietly. Sure it’s selfish to want the conversation to turn to you and how school’s going these days, but when it’s every dinner. Every meal. When every time your parents call you they only want to talk about the prodigal and how much they worry…when you call your parents one time in tears over something traumatic in your young life and they drop your call because the prodigal calls through to tell them something mundane…It’s hard. And it’s really easy to grow bitter. It’s really easy to resent.
Because when the father is always staring out the window, it means he’s ignoring you.
Some like to say, “Well, if the older son was a really good son, he would be at the window with the father. Look how far away the son was from the father! In the fields! They weren’t even on the same page.”
To which I always respond, “My life should stop because my sibling went prodigal? My life should be put on hold for them?” As for the elder son being in the fields, if the father is spending all of his time staring out the window wondering, who’s keeping the family business running? Methinks it’s the elder child, who is in those fields working to keep everything going, because the father is neglecting his business.
Now, I understand that this is not really a fair analysis of the story. Because in the father in the story is God, and God is all omniscient and omnipresent and can be with all of us all at the same time. He can be looking out the window for the Prodigal and in the fields with the elder son.
But when the prodigals of the world stretch the story and pull into the reveal the holes in the metaphor, it makes me go crazy. Because they don’t know what it’s like. They don’t know how hard it is, to be put on hold while you’re crying, to have every conversation with your parents turn to someone else. To have every moment of your life feel secondary to someone else—someone who essentially ran away from the family.
And you’re just the good kid, the ignored kid.
I think it was Victor Hugo who once said something like parents often love best the child who gives them the most trouble. (Of course he said it far more eloquently). And for those of us who give the least trouble…that’s a very disturbing thought.
So for years I’ve really struggled with this story. Debates on this topic have reduced me to tears, because no one understands. I feel like 90% of the world identifies with the prodigal son and those who don’t are like “I got over that years ago” but with no real advice on how to do so.
Leaving me floating alone with serious older brother syndrome in family. With growing resentment and bitterness towards my other siblings. Because even though this story isn't about earthly families per say, I still know that this bitterness and resentment building in me towards my earthly family is not good. But I feel so justified in my feelings. I'm not asking for much. Just a little attention. Just a little equal treatment. And it's hard not to desire that. But it's merely a Sisyphean Ambition leading me on a path to the Dark Side.
So how did watching the movie Thor give me a personal revelation? More on that on Thursday.
Click here for Part V: Loki and the Other Son.
Click here for Part V: Loki and the Other Son.