This week's Bible Lesson, Adam and Fallen Man, includes the parable of the Prodigal Son. I have written other blogs about this one. In one I thought about which of the qualities of two brothers I might be expressing, who I identified with. As I looked deeper I found I wanted to be like the Father, not judging or condemning, just loving and waiting patiently for one child to return and change his ways and the other to see his true value in my eyes. I've found things in Bible commentaries about how insulting it was for the boy to ask for his inheritance early, as if he was saying I wish you were dead. This week I am struck by something different.
The Prodigal Son had all he needed already. His Father was not withholding any good from his son. But this boy seemed to yearn for a taste of a different life. He was looking for things his Father was not providing in the way of sensual pleasures and exposure to evil. That was the 'far country' he wanted to experience, far from the way things were at home.
Like the Adam story, what he found opened the door to shame and guilt. He lived the riotous lifestyle until he had used up all his means. Then the so-called friends he had attracted had no further use for him. He found himself in need and was reduced to working for 'a citizen of that country', who put him to work in the most demeaning way, sending him to the fields to tend swine. And he didn't even feed him, just expected him to eat what the animals ate, husks, the leftovers and remains of food. No one helped him.
It appears that only sinking to these depths would 'awaken' him to where he was and what he had chosen to do. He could have chosen to go home before he turned to that 'citizen' for help. But even then he still wanted to be in that' far country'.
But eventually he did 'come to himself', he remembered who he really was, the child of his Father. And he is now ready to leave that place and go home with an apology for his behavior. If someone had to be his master, it might as well be his Father, who treated his servants with decency and generosity. Of course, the Father who had been watching for him, hoping he will come home, runs to meet him, gives him a warm welcome and reinstates him in the eyes of the household. He throws a welcome home party so all will know that the son is back in his rightful place. He had never ceased to be his son.
What I am thinking about is how that boy already had everything he neede - but he coveted more. He did not seem to be grateful for what he had. A different life seemed tantilizing and more fun, with less Fatherly control. We all have moments like that, when we feel like others have a more exciting lifestyle, can spend freely and experience things on the wild side. Or we covet their clothes or possessions or house or job,their wild friends, or even their freedom to do whatever they want. The older brother might have had those same thoughts, he just didn't act on them, but he had them. No wonder he resented his younger brother.
That boy came to the realization that he didn't have to stay there. He was no longer 'enthralled' with that 'far country' and he was free to go home. This is the time of year when my mailbox gets stuffed with catalogs I did not ask for and they are filled with all sorts of things I did not even know I wanted until I saw them. Or things I would love to be able to give as a gift. I will be alert to recognizing the alllure of 'far country' thinking and be grateful for what my Father is generously providing for me. I already have all I need, and will not choose to fall for 'you want this' suggestions. My Father gives me a generous nature and He will provide the means for me to purchase gifts for others this holiday season. It takes discipline. Mrs. Eddy writes: "This strife consists in the endeavor to forsake error of every kind and to possess no other consciousness but good (S&H p. 322).
I am so grateful for this gentle reminder on this Halloween day, as we turn the corner and head for Thanksgiving and Christmas.