Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Prodigal Son's Father

Over the year, when studying the parable of the Prodigal Son I have seen myself as one of the sons. The younger son, resenting the authority figure of his Father, resenting what he perceived as a dull life lived within the boundries of his Father's religion, goes off on his own. He wants to live a life free from restraint and convention. He wants to 'have fun' with companions who feel the same way. He must leave home to do this. Mrs. Eddy gives us a beautiful interpretation of the 23rd Psalm in which she substitutes 'spiritual consciousness' for house or home. The Psalmist was rejoicing that at all times and under all circumstances he was living the house, the consciousness of divine Love. The Prodigal couldn't wait for his Father's death, he demanded his inheritance right then and off he went.

The older son chose to stay at home but apparently did so with a very self-righteous attitude. For when the younger brother finds that his chosen life style brings shame and humiliation and that his chosen companions abandon him, he returns. There is a celebration to welcome him home, for all who know him to see him restored to his full status as the Father's son. The older brother resents this. After all, the kid went off, had a riotous good time, got wasted, and then comes home to a welcome!?! Not fair.

These days, I am making more of an effort to associate myself with the Father. He never wavered in his love for his sons. When the Prodigal left, he kept an eye out for his return, never doubting that he would come home. When the older brother refused to join the party, he went out to him and reasoned gently with him, reminding him of his loyalty.

It is tough for a parent to watch their child waste opportunities, run out of money, take up with the wrong companions, suffer poor health. Suffer consequences. Any loving parent would want to help their child avoid that. But sometimes lesson must be learned. The good Father stands fast, just loving that child, trusting them to God's care, always ready to welcome them 'back'. At no timie does the Father in the parable say "I told you so". For he hadn't. He had let the child go. But he was more than willing to meet him halfway on his return. Running to meet him with an embrace and kisses. Much like the reunion of Jacob and Esau, separated for 20 years due to treachery and deceit on that younger son's part.

Best of all, our heavenly Father never see us in either role, as Prodigal or Elder Brother. When either one got tired of seeing themselves in that light and desired to return to his true state, the readjustment rested with the child. What about all that wasted substance or those years of resentment? The supply of good had been constant for both sons the whole time. The Father had not withheld good from them. Their status as his beloved child had not changed in the Father's eyes, only in their own. An impoverished state is wholly a mental condition. It could and did change as quickly as the boys changed their thought.

Also, the Father did not suffer with the children. His loving attitude and unconditional love and forgiveness is what allowed them both to 'come home' without fear. No parents harmony is dependant on his child's sense of well being. That would be a form of idolatry, or as the Rule for Motives and Acts states, mere personal attachment. Parents need to see God as Life, in whom all good is found to be permanent and inexhaustible. We cannot heal a situation that involves another without their consent, but we can always handle the false belief in our own consciousness so it does not affect our harmony and peace, to overcome anxiety.

Do you find traces of yourself in this parable? It is well worth thinking about. The bottom line is that we are never out of the Father's care. He loves each and every one of us. Just as He sees us. Just as we truly are.

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