Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Prodigal

The story of the Prodigal Son has important lessons for the
Christian's journey toward God. It also has mythological implications
that go far beyond the Christian tradition. Look at it as a myth,
teaching us about life and about ourselves:

The Prodigal left home, learned foreign ways, made mistakes, and wound
up in a deep hole. In a sense this is the story of many of us; you
might say, the chapter of our lives before we got straightened out,
grew up, "came to ourselves" is the biblical term. Reflect on your

life, and you may see some congruence. (You won't see it of course if
you are still in the 'far country'.)

A boy in seminary in New Orleans had been 'liberated' by a couple of
the 'advanced' teachers. He withdrew to the French Quarter in order
to live a carefree life; he became what we in those days called a

Periodically Fred returned to visit former friends among the seminary
students. "How do you like it in the wilderness", a friend said.
"Well I like it here in the French Quarter, it's great!". Yes, Fred,
early in life Moses also spent 40 years in the wilderness.

A psychologist might tell you that we all need the wilderness
experience. We need to get away from the ideas and life style of our
sheltered childhood. For many this eventuates in wider and broader
perspectives and a more creative life style. Others may need to come
home. Perhaps you might belong in both categories.

The 'faith of our fathers' did have some real values, some we
internalized and can never get away from, though we may deny that.

I've learned a bit living through the experience of the son, and then of
the father. As an adolescent I rejected much of my family experience;
as a young man I sailed the seven seas, and I might have denied that I
had anything of value from my childhood. At 30 I sort of returned to
it emotionally; I began to perceive the positive values bequeathed to
me by my father; I wound up following the vocation he had chosen.

Then I had three boys, and I watched them passing through the same
sort of experiences. They left home; they had negative feelings
toward me; they made their way; they matured and became men.

Then I had the glad experience of seeing the Return. As grown men
they perceived me also as a grown man. Having learned to forgive
themselves for much, they found it in their heart to forgive me. Now
we are four struggling men, making our way in a cold world, but happy
in at least some of the values we share and in our relationship with
one another.

What I have seen and am describing here is what we refer to as the
Quaker sacrament, a poemlet by William Blake which goes as follows:

Throughout Eternity I forgive you, you forgive me.
As the Dear Redeemer said, this the wine and this the bread.

Blake was referring to his relationship with his (heavenly) Father,
but it applies equally to all our relationships with one another.

(For the biblical story go to
Luke 15:11.)


Ken Bradstock said...

Larry, I started carefully reading your entries. I'm really curious about your "wilderness experience." The entry was sorta vague and a little preachy but it whetted my appetite for what you must have gone through.

Marjorie said...

Thanks for this post -- I think there is so much to learn from the spiritual journeys of others, regardless of how they differ from our own. I think there are many common elements in all of our journeys -- rebellion/alienation, forgiveness/acceptance, redemption/reconciliation [hmmm, sounds like the Old Testament, especially].
I think that so many of us are in need of a bit of spiritual guidance, or at least community, and it seems so difficult to find sometimes. Thanks for your blog.
Blessings to you!

Marjorie said...

I find this interpretation of the Prodigal to be much more helpful than the more literal interpretation of two different sons. The latter always left me feeling a bit alienated, why should the 'bad' son be celebrated and the 'good' son be neglected? I'm still meditating on this story, I see that your interpretation aligns with that given by John Sanford in the Kingdom Within.