This post assumes familiarity with Jesus' parable of the lost son - sometimes known as the prodigal son: found in Luke 15:11-32
Reading through the parable of the prodigal earlier this week I found it difficult to choose a character to identify with. Henri Nouwen's book begins by asking you to listen and decide which character in the story represents the place you are at in the journey at that moment.
All good and well, but I know the story too much. It just seemed naff to identify with any of the characters. Then I remembered the possibility that the God-Spirit would use this story to show me something new and important.
"Oh alright, the good son then..."
Immediately the piece that stood out to me was obvious - you know the bit where the father says, "You are always with me, and everything I have is yours..." to the good son? I remembered that I have always been confused by this bit because of the subconscious thought, "Yeah well that might be true but the good son can't very well slaughter the fattened calf for himself whenever he wants." A literal kind of hang-up I know - but I'm a fairly literal (and therefore potentially gullible) person.
It came to me almost clearly. If life is a gift, why hanker for the fattened calf? the good son understands that all of life is a good gift from the father. In that sense the party and fattened calf is for him as well as all the times the family shared (happiness and sorrow) in between. Ahh, what a relief. It helped me to remember that life - God's gift to me - is full of goodnesses that don't have to miss!