A Rumination on the Prodigals


Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

Prodigal%20repents.jpgWhat do we do with our young fools? He takes our inheritance and goes exploring. He buys spray paint and haunts the railroad yards in the middle of the night, and the works of art he creates travel the country, viewed by thousands who are held up at railway crossings while the boxcars trundle by – for free. With a state of the art camcorder he charged to our credit card, he creates street theater and then gives it away on YouTube. The hours of encouragement and the fortune we paid so that she would learn to play a musical instrument reveal themselves when she gives an impromptu concert on the piano in the town square, “just a bit of Mozart she picked up somewhere.” Dressing in a spaghetti strapped gown she goes to the night club and dances until dawn, then sleeps until three in the afternoon, when she is awakened by the cat she has rescued from the alley outside the low rent hovel she has decided to call home. She will look for work tomorrow, when she isn’t so tired.

What do we do with our young fools, the ones who don’t fit in, who can’t seem to grab hold of the whirlwind we call responsible adult living, and who languish, spending their inheritance before we have even thought of giving it to them? They are exploring the consciousness of pigs – “intelligent creatures, you know,” they say with some asperity. But the exploration seems to stop far short of any sort of gainful employment. They tell us they are writing a book or an article, a poem, or a piece of music – or was that last week they said that?

The other children are so responsible, so reasonable. It is a pleasure when he comes to dinner, bringing his fiance. But that doesn’t happen very often, now that he is doing so well in his work. Her latest promotion has her traveling all over the world, and she is learning Chinese so she can relate to her clients, but she looks so thin and anxious. Her business is booming, and we are so proud of her, but she seems to have no time for her children, and they stay with us more often than is good for them. He runs marathons and eats only organic produce, and he has lately been giving us lists of the ingredients in our favorite foods with descriptions of their harmful effects. They do not seem to need anything from us anymore, nothing but our blessing. And they wait for that like waifs wait for nourishment in an impossibly long breadline, not understanding that they have it already, have always had it and always will.

Perhaps we need the bright spirits who commune with the pigs. How precious is the fresh insight, the dream that cannot find employment in the world as it is. Maybe we ought to pray for the spark of flame in their hearts to catch hold and blossom into a vision that can ignite the world. Pray that after we can no longer support them, they may find a way to continue on without relinquishing the plunge into the underworld that will save us all. The planet yearns for what they will teach us, how they will guide us.

Maybe we ought to pray for the responsible children, that they will open the door and catch their breath in wonder at what is revealed. Maybe we ought to ask for their playfulness, their ease – and that they really come to understand the love they already have.

In the house that our love has built, we open our arms wide once again to who is coming home and who has remained. We open our arms, hoping that everyone will come inside and dance. God leaps in the crackling fire in the hearth even as God wanders the isolated roads of the dark world outside. We pray for our own vision, what we yearn for, what we expect – that we might see more clearly what would bring fulfillment to all.

*Image by Laurie Gudim

Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.

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