Imagine holding one of those seeds in your hand while you stand at the base of a fully grown tree strong enough to have nests built into its branches.
Sometimes I strive so hard at living with the most excellent virtue, in absolute piety, in "Christian perfection" of sorts that I become more and more strained, confined and closed in. We can be so dependent upon upholding the rules and expectations we place on ourselves that we forget the relationship we were intended for. I think of the comparison between the prodigal and his brother. I think of the difference in the levels of intimacy with the father they both resemble. I find that in his brokenness and humility, the prodigal experiences far greater intimacy with the father than does his sinless, pious and self-righteous brother.
The true site of the Christian disciple is one of a man or woman who is able to praise God for all things, including his own sin, he who is not obsessed with the perfect portrayal of self and spirituality. She who is not complacent and shackled by a practical life. He who strives more for the relationship than the rules and understands that he has, is and will fail but can realize that God expects more failure from him than he ever does from himself. She who realizes we do not have to come groveling to God with a clear presentation of our sins and failures IN ORDER TO BE forgiven, but realizes the prodigal's father did not ask for an explanation, and Jesus did not ask the adulterous woman for an apology or confession. The disciple realizes that we will not be judged now or in the end for our sins because we have already been judged and found not guilty, but that God desires we show up in his embrace and accept his love.
I thought some more about the prodigal today. I have read and heard that story on countless occasions. As a child who longs for grace, unconditional Agape love, I cheer, with all Christians, for the prodigal and his father. We never grow tired of hearing this parable, and we cheer with delight in our hearts at the sight of the fathers unconditional embrace and the prodigal's humility. We imagine the prodigal's poverty and leap for joy at the prodigal's humble return. We see the prodigal lag his way home and watch the Father run to his battered and poor son. We go on the Father's joyful demand to get IPA and T-bone steaks with excellent joy for the prodigal's return. We read with great joy. We cheer for the prodigal.
We live like the older brother. When the story is read and enjoyed, I walk past drunken homeless people on the streets. After the thrilling STORY is over, I get pissed off at the people around me. I weep for joy at the prodigal's return home to loving arms, and then I write a scathing status update to someone. I get all caught up in the greatest PLOT of grace and unconditional love ever uttered or written, and I have the hardest time accepting continued mistakes and life patterns in my own family members.
I work hard to be the best Christian I can be for crying out loud, and here are all these people around me who aren't even trying. Here are all those people who do not understand that I am a Christian who wants to be all I can be, and they just go on like it doesn't make a difference. I believe in a God of unconditional love and grace and I loath the congregations who don't get it right. I am the prodigal here...not them!
It is not just a parable. It is not just a fictional thriller to read and put back on the shelf until the next time. It is a story that serves as a humbling reflection of the reality we live every day. Like every parable, it is easy to associate myself with the good guy, the hero, but I can ALWAYS equally associate myself with the villian.
My heart breaks when I realize I cheer for the prodigal and live like the older brother.