Thursday, November 20, 2008

I am both brothers. . .

I'm the prodigal and the older brother...

First I believe I started out as the older brother, the good one... the one who never did anything wrong, who looked down on others who made bad choices, who got divorced, who sometimes cussed and yelled at their kids, etc. - you fill in the blank. I basically didn't commit any "big sins" and always asked forgiveness for those pesky smaller ones. I obeyed God, followed his rules; it was easy. I also resented that younger brother who left home early and seemed to get away with everything. It just wasn't fair that he got his inheritance early while I stayed behind and worked hard on the farm with such obedience.

Then almost overnight, I became the younger brother. After over 17 years of marriage I was divorced. I struggled with unrelenting guilt even after I asked God for forgiveness for this "big" sin, the one that I had condemned others for when I was the older brother. Even after many years, I still battled with the persistent guilt and a sense that the father could never forgive me. Even when I knew in my head that my father's forgiveness is full and complete, I would still find myself wandering in the desert in search of my Father's approval and love.

I also struggled with depression (part of the rite of passage that women deal with when they go through "the change of life"). I remember when I was the older brother, how I could never relate or empathize with anyone who struggled with depression. It just made no sense to me. But then as I morphed into the younger brother, I gained a different perspective and could really feel the pain of someone who lived daily with the demon of depression. Fortunately, that part has diminished over time, although it will come back to visit and linger when I least expect it.

I don't really care to be either brother. The older one is arrogant, unfeeling, self-righteous and devoid of any real heart. The younger brother is rash, impulsive and wasteful. But at least he ultimately sees his sin as it really is and he is the only one who finally understands his father's love for him. He experiences the forgiveness he never thought he'd know. I don't think the older brother ever gets it.

I guess I would like to be the middle brother (not specifically mentioned in the story) who sees the problems and issues of his younger and older brother and learns the lessons from both. The whole parable is found in the book of Luke, chapter 15, but I like the verse at the end that says,

It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for
this your brother
was dead, and is alive; he
was lost, and is found. Luke 15:32

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