the prodigal father

the prodigal father
Photo by Alexander Mils / Unsplash
And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them..."

In the course of things, we're born and we die. In contrast to those major life events, what we do in between may seem inconsequential. The time before our birth stretches all the way out to the beginning of time, and the time after our death will certainly amount to eternity. The entire course of our lives is statistically equivalent to nothing.

Yet, from our vantage point, the inconsequential span of time between our life and death is all we know. We have a desperate desire to hang on to it, to make the most of it, and to reach a certain peace by the time it's over.

Unfortunately, life doesn't come with a simple instruction manual. We can't go read a book or a blog to discover "6 simple steps to have the perfect life." So how do we pursue the good life? How do we achieve happiness?

If you're reading this, you were born. You were born, and for at least the first decade (two decades if you're very fortunate), someone took care of you. Someone redirected the flow of their own resources to ensure your health and safety. You did nothing as a weeping infant to earn this or to deserve this. And if you're like me, you also took it for granted. My youth prevented me from recognizing that my very life depended upon the generosity and love of a handful of average people just doing their best to figure things out as they go.

For this, I owe them great honor and gratitude. My every breath belongs to them. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't have life coursing through my veins right now.

But we all know how the story goes: we say, "Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me." We say to the source of our every breath, "I wish you were dead and gone. I wish you were out of my way." We want to strike out on our own. We want to live the good life as we define it. We want to break the shackles of relying on an intermediary between us and happiness.

But reality sets in. And our pitiable tragedy turns into a burlesque comedy. In order to strike out on our own, we have to ask our dad for money! We can't actually do it on our own because we have nothing apart from our father.

If I were to run away from home, I'd have to wear clothes my mom bought for me, driving a car my dad found for me, using gas money they put in my wallet for me. It's all terribly ironic, but from the limited view of a child, it somehow makes sense. How much more ironic when we try to run away from God?