Friday, March 7, 2014

The Other Son

The story of the Prodigal Son always used to bother me.  In case you don't know this Bible story, here is the recap:  There are two sons, the oldest one is a hard working son who loves his father and the youngest one is a lazy thankless son who wants to leave his fathers house.  Upon leaving his fathers house he is given his entire inheritance in monetary form.  He then goes out and blows this inheritance on gambling, women, drinking and you get the point, all the while the other brother is at home dutifully working with his father.  After a time goes by, the wayward son blows through all of his inheritance money and realizes that he has nothing left with which to live on.  He then goes and gets work- but it is pitiful work and he is reduced to eating slops with pigs.  He decides it would be better to go back to his fathers house and beg for work because even his father's servants have it better than he does.  While he is walking on the path back to his father's house, he is preparing to humble himself and beg for work from his father- but he never gets the chance.  Because when his father sees him in the distance he runs out to meet him and begins hugging him and adorning him in the best clothes and jewelry that they had.

The son never even gets a chance to beg for work- the father is so happy that his son has returned, he has an animal killed for meat because they are going to have a big old party that night to celebrate!  So then the other son basically says what I used to be thinking; he says are we really going to have a party?  For my loser brother who has been living a party since he left?  What about me?  I have been serving faithfully with you this whole time and he goes and spends all of your money and just because he comes back you're throwing him a party?  

So really, this story used to always seem so unfair to the first son.  This first son was the model of faithfulness his whole life- he worked hard, did what his father asked of him, remained steady and spent his prime "partying years" being a good man.  He didn't go and get drunk on his 21st birthday, he didn't sleep around with all the beautiful girls in town, and he didn't sleep late every day doing whatever he felt like it.  Then he watches while his little brother does just that- not only does he do all that but he has the nerve to do all that with his father's money.

That would have been tolerable I suppose because the lazy little brother finally left home to run wild.  I would imagine at that point the older brother was relived- he could finally have some peace in the house with just him and his father working steadily; working hard.  Week after week they worked side-by-side, man to man.  It was good and rewarding and I imagine the older brother felt somewhat proud of the man he was becoming- especially proud that he could make his father so proud...what after the devastation of having his youngest son take his inheritance and go off like that.  So now we have a son who has not only been working hard to please himself, but also working hard to please his father and take the place of the son who so callously abandoned him.

But then one day, the party boy comes home.

And dad throws him a party.

Can you imagine how heart wrenching that must have felt?  To have worked so hard- not just the weeks the brother was gone, but really your whole life.  To always be the responsible one.  The moral one.  The one to do what is right.  The hard working one.  The one to stick close to your father.  And then you watch your reckless little brother trample on all you hold dear- and when his money and fun runs out, he comes back to a reward.  To a celebration.

The father's response to the oldest son's complaint has taken me years to comprehend.  In fact, I am not sure I fully understood it until this past year of my life.  When the oldest son complained to his father about the warm reception the youngest son was getting, the father says something that has taken me most of my life to truly understand: He says 'Son, you were always with me and all I have has always been yours.'


If you really see what is happening here- if you really understand what this story is saying, then those words hit like a ton of bricks.  You see, this story is a parable, meant to be an illustration of life with Jesus.  There are those of us who have served Him our whole lives, and some who live wild lives and then come to know Him.  And when those people come to know Jesus, He greets them with open arms and a celebration- just like the father in this story did when his son returned home to him.  There is grace upon grace for all who ever come to Jesus regardless of ANY life you ever lived- Jesus just wants His sons and daughters to come home to Him and when they do, it's worth celebrating to Him.

But to those who have been with him, working year after year, there is no party.  In fact, we take part in those celebrations for those who return home.  But God forbid that we should ever be like that oldest son and begrudge those returning to the Father their rightful celebration...because here's the thing:
Being with Jesus IS the reward.

Every second I have spent serving Him has been a blessed reward.  I have known peace beyond measure, joy unspeakable, and a love so secure I didn't have to go looking anywhere else for it.  I have tasted life, seen His miracles, known His goodness, drank His mercies, rested in His grace, and moved in His Spirit.  He has guided me, tested me, grown me, proved me, forgiven me, placed me, held me, and blessed me.  I was kept in His hand, brought to His promises, walked through His faithfulness, and protected under His goodness.  I was led, taught, and allowed to grow into a person who knew God and His ways.  I know His Word and it has spoken to me daily for many, many years.  I have had the privilege of praying prayers and then seeing those prayers answered...or not seeing them answered and then seeing my God come to my recuse and comfort in an entirely different manner.

The point is, all the years that the prodigal was running...running to pain, running to loneliness, running to himself- I was living with the Father.  Living in safety.  And that is a gift.

He is the gift.

It IS it's own reward.  The daily life of following Jesus truly is a reward.  It is a gift- a precious gift that I was blessed to live day in and day out.  And to envy life on the other side- to think that the prodigal got to "have it all" and then come home to a grand welcome is missing the crux of the story...for you see, the prodigal came to the end of himself and realized that he gave up the best of the best and came crawling home on hands and knees, wishing only to BEG and become but a SERVANT in his Father's home because that would have been far better than any life away from it.

No life away from God is pleasing.  Because once the beauty wears off you are left with scars.  And you spend your time wishing you had never left, devising a plan to crawl back and beg for a place among the lowest in the household.  Or sadly, some never find it in themselves to come back.

But those who stay- the oldest brothers- are in possession of this gift every moment of every day they wake.  They eat, sleep, breathe, and live in the very presence of the Father...without realizing what a gift it is.  This year I relied on Jesus for my very breath.  He was my compass, my truth, my family's security and everything I rested on and leaned on while walking through the darkest of nights.  I have never had to spend one night away from my God.  That is a gift.

That is THE gift.

I will never begrudge a child returning home the celebration- because I can only imagine the joy that must be felt between Savior and the one being saved.  And all the while I will bow my head in sheer gratitude knowing that every single gift being bestowed upon that child is a gift that I have had in possession my entire life.  I have tried to write a blog describing my gratitude as to what it has been like living my whole life with Jesus, and I have not been able to do it justice.  The oldest son in this parable did not know of what he was in possession of...that daily he was in the presence of the very Father.

And I can assure you- there just is no place on earth worth being than daily in the presence of Jesus.

" your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."  Psalm 16:11


  1. Hi Ashely, do you think you could apply this meaning to all forms of forgiveness, that anyone who has hurt you should be forgiven as, although they may have hurt you, they were actually the worse off, for not having God in their lives.
    I'm not sure if I articulated myself well but either way please know that your posts really touch me in a meaningful way. Thank you.

    1. I do think that Dee- that is a beautiful way to look at it. Someone who has hurt you- yes while they have hurt you- they themselves are hurting far worse because ultimately they are living without the Lord in their lives. And just remember we are commanded to forgive...but there is a big difference between forgiveness and acceptance. Forgiveness is free but it cost Jesus His life. I guess what I am saying is that we do need to forgive those who have hurt us, but that does not obligate us to accept them or their continual hurt in our lives. That said, you will have much more peace in your life if keep this principle in mind- as hurt as you may be you are still far better of than the one who hurt you. You have Jesus.
      I am so grateful this touched you in some way. You are so welcome.