The Older Son

For Holy Week, I’ve been re-reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen from Darton Longman Todd.

This is an immensely powerful book, based on Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son, and I would recommend it everyone.

Of course, every time you read a book, you are in a different place.

Part 1, The Younger Son, I got the succinct, yet powerful message,

Don’t look for your validation in the wrong places.

My response to part 2, The Older Son, was quite different:

Why is no one looking at me?
Why does no one see what I do?

 You’re all looking at him
That wastrel,
That waste of space.
He had his chance,
but he took off,
went the wrong way,
wasted all you gave him.

Yet when he comes crawling back,
you’re all over him.
Come in on,
have some nice clean clothes,
let’s have a party.

 Look at me.
Why does no one see me?
Why does no on say how precious I am?
Hello!
I’ve been here all along.

 He escaped,
abandoned the family,
took his labour,
and half the wealth.
Yet still you want him.
What has he ever done to deserve it?

 Look at me.
You can see me can’t you?
Have I no value to you?
Am I inconsequential in this family?

 And yet,
I know I have worth,
I know what I do is good.
Yet my work doesn’t seem to be noticed.

 And so I am lost,
as lost as he was.
I am lost in the pain of rejection.
Oh, you may not be rejecting me,
but that is how it feels
when you fawn all over him,
big him up
– for doing what?
just coming home like he should?

And as I feel your rejection,
that I’m not good enough,
whatever I do;
I get caught up in self-rejection
and ultimately into resentment.

Resentment of how others are treated,
while I feel ignored.
Resentment that my efforts are not appreciated.
Resentment that my gifts are missed.

What about me?

Do you see me?

I respond in petulance
and anger,
I refuse to play along.
You have your celebration, but don’t expect me to join in
– you’ve never celebrated me…

 And then I hear those words,
“My Son, you are with me always
and all I have is yours”,

and I see that I have to let go.

That you see us all,
and welcome us all
– even me.

There is room in your heart
for each one of us,
we all have our unique place,
and every place is with you.

 There is no need for the comparison,
it is not a competition to win you love,
we all have your love.

Perhaps if I stop looking at “them”,
what they are doing,
how they should or shouldn’t be behaving,
how they are different to me,
how I feel you, or others,
treat them.

 If I can put away the years
of feeling not good enough,
stop re-playing the put downs,
look at the acceptances
not the rejections.

 If I can choose gratitude and trust.

 If I turn and look at you,
allow you to wrap your arms of love around me too,
look into your eyes
and nowhere else…

 Maybe then,
I too
can come home to your embrace,
and be bathed in your light.

 Then I too can know the joy of homecoming.

This was driven home by a phrase in Part 3, The Father,

The Father wants simply to let them know that the love they have searched for in such distorted ways has been, is , and always will be there for them (p96)

God longs to bless his deeply wounded sons and daughters.  He doesn’t measure us against anyone else, it is not a competition for his love and acceptance.  There is no comparison (p103).

God welcomes me home – and he welcomes you.  We are good enough.  We are treasured.  He is there, arms outstretched.  For me.  And for you.  What an immense privilege.

How am I to let myself be loved by God? (p106)

 

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2 thoughts on “The Older Son

  1. wow! you’ve hit the nail on the head, Pam. We are all the Prodigal and we are all the elder child – and God’s love for us all is immense, rich, free, superabundant.

    1. I think there’s a the younger son, the older son in all of us 😉
      The greater hope is that we can become The Father too

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