I recently finished reading a great book by Henri J. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son. As someone who has grown up in the church and has heard the story of the Prodigal Son many, many, many times I was a little skeptical about reading this book because "what else could I learn?" I thought. As I began reading it soon became clear that this was going to be a refreshing new examination of this story. I am not going to write a book review or report here, I am sure that other more qualified and read writers have that under controle. I just wanted to share some things that I found myself identifying with and realizing as I read.
Nouwen is taken on this journey through his interaction with a famous Rembrandt painting Return of the Prodigal Son (seen on cover of book). Starting with the rebelious son, he talks through his process of identifying with each of the 3 characters. It is this that I wish to examin in myself as well.
Let me share with you a little about each of the things that grabed me most as I read this story.
It was not so much reading about the rebelious son that I found myself, though it is true that there are ways in which I do. It was mostly identification with the eldest son, and then the depiction of the great love of the Father that has really captured me at this point.
The older son was the one who worked for his father and did the things that were required of him. In the end he is found to be bitter and unable to enter into his Father's joy for the return of the younger son. Both son's are given invitations to enter into the celebration of the Father, the younger accepted, the elder is not sure what he will do. Will I let go of my bitter selfishness, and respond to the Father's welcome of relationship and blessing. Can I rejoice when others, who are probably not as righteous and good as me, seem to be the direct focus of God's love at a particular time? Can I stop seeing myself in competition for the Father's love and just recognize that there is an abundance available for all His kids. I guess I am just recognizing this subtle, maybe not so subtle, air of entitlement that I feel based on my good works. I have become a Pharasee without hardly recognizing it!
In light of this it was really something to understand the father's disposition in the story. The generousity and mercy and grace and patience and humility shown by the father is breathtaking. I was truely chalenged by the portrate of God in this book, and I don't feel I can really do justice to the way he is portrayed. What was interesting though, and what I will comment on, was the exhortation of the father teaching his son's how to be fathers. The call for us to not remain as we are but to learn from our Father and to become fathers ourselves. This is what has really inspired me from this book. What are the good things I have learned from Father God, and how can I help others participate in those same great revelations.
I really do recommend this one!
Bye for now,