Summary: We may relate to each of the characters in the story of the prodigal, but we are called to become the father.
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
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
“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.”
“But what of the father? Why pay so much attention to the sons when it is the father who is in the center and when it is the father with whom I am to identify? Why talk so much about being like the sons when the real question is: Are you interested in being like the father? It feels somehow good to be able to say: "These sons are like me." It gives a sense of being understood. But how does it feel to say: "The father is like me"? Do I want to be like the father? Do I want to be not just the one who is being forgiven, but also the one who forgives; not just the one who is being welcomed home, but also the one who welcomes home; not just the one who receives compassion, but the one who offers it as well?