Saturday, 9 March 2013

From the Older Son's Point of View (Prodigal)

So you've just nipped in from the fields to have a quick up of tea. You work in a hot countryside, and before the heat of the day really hit, you and the hired men decided it was time for a cool sit down while you waited for the afternoon sun to go down a bit.

And your younger brother - the one whom the universe apparently revolves around - the one that Dad can never do too much for - he's talking to your Dad. And the conversation goes like this, more or less - "Dad, you know I love you and everything - but why are you still around? I could do with my third of the geld."

And you wait for Dad to tell him what a presumptuous fool he is. Because you know he's pretty idle, and he left the cows half-milked this morning. And when you went and found Mum to complain about him - she just told you "he's not as old or strong as you." And you pointed out, yet again, that he's 18 years of age - quite old enough to know how to do his job properly. And she just shrugged, and said she'd hoped you would have  been more understanding.

But Dad doesn't give him the clout round the ear that he so clearly deserves. Oh no. Dad goes to the pot where he keeps the shekels, and pulls out the money the farm's made over the last few years. And you know that money is about half the value of the farm. And Dad gives him the money, and gives him his blessing. Three days later, off he goes, having bought himself a new donkey, and leaves you to get the cereal harvest in.

It's a really dry summer. The grapes are small, but sweet. So the wine harvest isn't big, but it's strong. And the winter rains fail. So you struggle to ensure the barley and wheat survive. And you've been so busy - digging the irrigation channels, where the lie of the land allows it - getting some crops in even before they're fully ripe, for fear the drought and the sun would tip them over the edge.

So the next May, you're wandering back in from the fields again. And you've worked really hard. The animals have been struggling, but they've got through it, sometimes you've carried them water. You've walked miles sometimes, to ensure they can drink, and can forage in the areas where what's left of the grass is the greenest you can find.

And then the rains came, just in time before the real heat returned. And today you've been out sorting out the cattle. And you're soaked through  - though it's not raining today, so it's not water you're soaked with, not given the job you've just been doing. And as you head back to the house, down the road you can see a dot.

And the dot grows to the size of a man, as he walks along the road up to the house. It's a scrawny man, limping a bit, been through the mill, clearly baked by the sun and washed by the rain, but still quite recognizable. It's Junior. And you can tell - as sure as eggs is eggs - that he's blown it. And you see your Dad running down the road towards him and you think - this is gonna be good. Dad's seen the little wastrel for what he's always been - a useless little beggar who comes running home now he's down on his luck. So you wipe the mud and cow-dung from your face, and settle down to watch the show.

And as he walks back to the house with your Dad, you start to hear words that set the alarm bells ringing. "Dead but now alive". "Party". "Ring". "Robe". "Fatted Calf". And that little waster is being treated like he's a king.

So how are you gonna feel?

Precisely. But.

If you've got any sense, you're gonna look at yourself - not at Lil' Bruv.

You're gonna ask yourself, "Who's really got the relationship problem with our Dad? Is it my brother - or is it me?

"Am I working for the love of my Dad - or because I know I get the other two thirds once he's gone? Do I look at the farm and think - this is where my family live, this is our home, this is where I belong? This is where I am rooted - safe in the love that I have never run away from? Or do I look out over these fields and think - "one day this will all be mine"?

"And all the hours I put in - is it because I love my Dad and Mum - or is it out of duty; out of a sense of obligation - I'm doing this because I have to  - and because I'll benefit from it - not because I want to?

"Do I go in after a long day in the fields, happy to be with my Dad, who himself has put so much into this farm, this landscape, do I listen to the stories of how this family was in days gone by, talk in excited terms about my dreams for the future- tell my parents how much I love them, share their life with them - or do I slump, exhausted, filled with the sense that I'm wasting the best years of my life on hard work and muck-spreading?"

And if you've got any sense, you're gonna realise that your Dad loves you just as much as he does your brother. You'll see that, if you'd been half the older brother you thought you were, you should have gone looking for him yourself when you realised how bad the famine was. You'll be glad that - against all the odds, and through his own - finally-found - good sense, and through the sheer love of your forgiving and generous Father - your brother is home, and safe, and loved.

And you'll get a pail of that precious, cooling, water, and wash your face clean.  You'll put on a decent robe, yourself. You'll put some oil on your hair, and make your face shine.

And you'll go and join the party.

1 comment :

  1. Excellent! I wish I'd read this before I finished my sermon for tomorrow morning


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