I’ve been making my way through Luke in the mornings. During Lenten season I enjoy the gospels especially as we soberly march toward the cross, our hearts flinging open with joy at the resurrection. This morning I was in Luke 15 reading about the familiar parable of The Prodigal Son. Sometimes it’s hard to mine anything new from these well tread passages, though the Holy Spirit is good at showing us anything we may have missed, or maybe can only now handle. Today I don’t know if I have anything new for you, but one particular thought was new for me.
The story is told in verses 15:11-32, culminating with the father’s response to the oldest son who’s understandably frustrated, even angry that a party has been thrown celebrating his younger brother’s return—the brother who, by the way, had squandered the inheritance on foolish, even tawdry, living. That guy. A friend of mine recently told me that if she had been the older brother she would have stood there, hands on hips, saying, really?—in the spirit of Seth and Amy from SNL. All this comes to a broil when the older son essentially does say really?, and has it out with the father, to which the father responds, “Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
I once heard someone share about this passage and the “everything I have is yours” part, and it was just remarkable. I’ll never forget it. She shared about a deeply coveted experience she’d missed having only for the Lord to remind her that absolutely everything He has is hers. It turns out that someone else needed to experience the moment she’d hoped to have, and in the end, nothing was lost because when you belong to God and all He has is yours, there can be no true loss.
The phrase leading up to “everything I have is yours”, is “You are always with me”. I hadn’t thought too much about that phrase before until this morning. This is a stunning remark in light of everything the older brother was so upset about. We get angry or jealous about someone else’s party, the attention they’re receiving that maybe we should be receiving. We compare things for things, “She shouldn’t have gotten that, when I’ve done all this.” Or “Why is he getting the promotion when I’ve done all the work?” Why the nicer home, bigger family, better spouse, elaborate vacation? We focus on the monetary and material—why the ring, the calf, the robe? For him? For her? Are you kidding me?
And then the father brings us back in five words, “You are always with me.”
He brings us back to relationship. To what it means to wake up to him everyday. To see him out in the fields of our work. To call out to him with any question, because we can, because he’s right there, with us. To collapse at his table at night and dine with him over a lavish meal. To crawl under the covers knowing our beds are under the roof of his favor, the watch of his eye. The party for the younger son was significant, the celebration a study in grace and mercy, no doubt. But the grounding of the father’s words, “you are always with me” was the prize the younger son had forfeited for a season. Son, daughter, you have me! We’re together. Always. Don’t you see this is everything?
I suppose the question is how important this is to us. Would we rather have the party of the father or the presence of him? The father was reaching out to the older son’s heart when he said “you are always with me”, because absolutely nothing on this earth, nothing, no. thing. trumps relationship with God.
I don’t know what’s gnawing at you, but the offer of relationship with God through Christ is so intimate, so personal, so fulfilling, higher than even the most lavish of material celebrations. God sent His Son to die for it. As we set our sights toward Easter, my prayer is that we never forget that Christ came for many things, not the least of which was for relationship. So we could know him. (1 John 4:13-15.) You may be many things today: Disappointed, frustrated, confused, maybe even angry like the older brother. But don’t be lonely. We have The Father who has availed himself to deep abiding relationship with us. And as a bonus, he’s kicked in everything he has, as though it’s our own.