The Prodigal Parent

Posted on May 16, 2010


It’s no secret that I’ve slipped up. In that great frustration that oldest children have about the different life their younger siblings experience (and I know, because I’m an oldest child with young younger siblings) I get a peek into the prodigal family. One father, one older son, one younger son, and a conflict as old as humanity.

I’ve come full circle as the child. I know how the father really messed up, how he really let things slide, and see, look what a lack of structure does to that little brat. He’s a mess. He can’t be counted on. He’s going to ruin everything for everyone. And oldest son has a point.

But I am the father now, and I see both sides. I see my own oldest-son-heart hard and measuring in a way the youngest son’s never was, and I’m no longer the oldest son. I see that youngest sons never really question (even in their whining) the rightness of the oldest, the natural heir big brother is to the father’s heritage of virtues, but also the sureness that he as youngest son always has a place in father’s heart. And youngest son has a point.

I don’t know if there’s any way other than being father to see both hearts, any way other than the tiny bit of Gethsemane’s intense soul-sharing to grow out of being only either an oldest or youngest son. How valuable to know, as oldest sons do, that structure and obedience and work ethic and duty make strong men who build lasting things. How valuable to know, as youngest sons do, that the sun rises and sets with them, that they are inherently lovable, that they can always go back, no matter what they have done, to open arms. They have to fight with each other to learn, each, what the other knows. And they are never truly whole until the dust settles and they have embraced.

I’m a parent of oldest and youngest sons, a prodigal father, mediating the enfolding of a family. My heart is big for them all. I’ve slipped up, and changed up, and grown up, but my arms are open wide for them all.  In the end, I’m looking up, because it’s not about me.

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