Summary: We may relate to each of the characters in the story of the prodigal, but we are called to become the father.

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"His father said to him, `Look, dear son, you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’ "

Who are you in the story?

There are many different ways to read scriptures: one, for information, lessons to learn, life rules to live by, a new understanding of God or the world around us, or ourselves, another, for formation: to allow God to shape us through the story, to allow God’s word to wash us, to go to our core and renew us. One method of reading for formation is to enter the story and say Who am I most like in this story? Who’s story most parallels mine? Who am I in this story?

Who are you in the story?

At which point in the story do you most relate to them?

The younger son

At home: Ungrateful, grasping at “what’s coming to him”

In a far off land: Wild living

“rock bottom”


Back home: Reconciled

The Older Son

Working hard out of duty

Being the “good boy”

Feeling unappreciated – “you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.”

Jealous of the party boy

Resentful at God’s grace for others

Wooed by the father

Joining the party

The Father

Stung by the younger son’s rejection and demands

Afraid for his well-being

Longing for his return

Rejoicing at his return

Running to him with fear & joy

Giving joyful grace and forgiveness

Throwing a party

Inviting the older son to join in joy

Rebuilding relationships

“Father, you know me in and out, you know where I’m at. I confess I feel like the ___________ when he _________________. … What is your word for me today? …”

I want you to stay there with God, but I also want to push you further.

We need to know where we are with God, but we need to know where he is calling us to be as well.

One of the things that Nouwen’s book did for me when I read it a few years ago was to open my eyes not just to relating to the prodigal son, or the older brother, or even just relating to the father, but it was his second last chapter called “Becoming The Father” that opened my eyes and heart to the call on our lives to be the father. It isn’t enough to find our story, our past, and possibly our present in the characters of the sons or even the father, we need to find our future in the character of the father.

This is what Nouwen writes:

“Though I am both the younger son and the elder son, I am not to remain them, but to become the Father. No father or mother ever became father or mother without having been son or daughter, but every son and daughter has to consciously choose to step beyond their childhood and become father and mother for others. It is a hard and lonely step to take - especially in a period of history in which parenthood is so hard to live well - but it is a step that is essential for the fulfillment of the spiritual journey.”

He goes on to write…

“I am amazed at how long it has taken me to make the father the center of my attention. It was so easy to identify with the two sons. Their outer and inner waywardness is so understandable and so profoundly human that identification happens almost spontaneously as soon as the connections are pointed out. For a long time I had identified myself so fully with the younger son that it did not even occur to me that I might be more like the elder. But as soon as a friend said, " Aren’t you the elder son in the story?" it was hard to see anything else. Seemingly, we all participate to a greater or lesser degree in all the forms of human brokenness. Neither greed nor anger, neither lust nor resentment, neither frivolity nor jealousy are completely absent from anyone of us. Our human brokenness can be acted out in many ways, but there is no offense, crime, or war that does not have its seeds in our own hearts.”

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