It’s crazy what being thoroughly immersed in Scripture can do for you, or should I say do to you. John Calvin famously equated Scripture to being the eyeglasses by which the Christian is able to see the world. My fuzzy logic then follows that the deeper and more immersed you are in Scripture, as we’ve been and will continue to be in Luke 15’s Parable of The Two Lost Sons, the thicker your spectacles will get.
I’m not bragging when I say that 3 solid weeks in, I feel like I’m wearing those nerdy coke bottle glasses. I say this not because I’m a particularly good or dedicated reader or that I feel at all like I’ve got this parable pegged, but because, the more I’ve wrestled with this text and the more I’ve forced myself to come at it honestly the more God has surprised me.
As I’ve tried to put myself in the world of the parable, I’ve come to wonder about how each of the characters (Father, Prodigal, & Elder Brother) thought of themselves. If they were introducing themselves at a cocktail party, what might they say?
“I’m such-and-such and I’m so-and-so’s Father,” might be the reply of the Father. And as far as I can tell, this reply is the only identity that doesn’t change throughout the story. The younger brother tries with all his might to un-son himself and to un-brother himself. And we find later on the Elder tries to do the same. How is it that despite the fact that the family is being torn apart, the Father’s seems rock solid? Why does what the Younger Brother do bother the Big Bro so much? Why isn’t the Younger Brother content with just being in the family and having what he is related to who his Father is? Why does he try and go it on his own?
Here’s where those bizarre new scripture shades come in for me.
So I was watching Survivor on tv (nice segue, right?!)… This season features famed college and NFL football coach Jimmy Johnson along with other folks of various backgrounds, most of which were leaders in their contexts. Insert someone with a bit of self-assurance, fame, and confidence and all but a few of them took him as a threat immediately. It was bizarre. Jimmy seemed content to be there for the experience, he certainly doesn’t need the cash, and in no way was an advantage written into the game for him. Why did everyone care? Why were they threatened by someone having fun? Someone more interested in fishing, giving pep talks, and calling to wildlife than in game-play and outwitting his opponents?
It made me wonder what ways I try to make up my own identity (like the Prodigal), not being content with what and where I am?
It made me wonder what ways, when my identity gets pulled out from under me (like the Elder), that I start flailing and trying to take others down with me?
It made me want my identity to be grounded in the kind of confidence that Jimmy exhibited (certainly in a small and imperfect way) on the island. It made me look back to Luke’s parable with more admiration for the love of that Father, whose love was so solid that neither being abandoned and un-Fathered or being doubted and pestered could budge.
Mostly it made me want to live into the steady-love of God in a more assured way. In a way that grounds me and in a way that sends me out as an imitator.
What have you been seeing through the lenses of this parable?