Returning yet again to one of my favorite parables, The Prodigal Son, I have never questioned what happened after the big welcome home party. In earlier posts, I have explored his lengthy journey home, his brother’s judgmental attitudes, and his father’s unfailing love. But what about the son’s life after that? Did he settle down and take his place on his father’s estate? Did he make peace with big brother? Did he swear off his wild ways forever and completely? What do these questions mean for me on my journey?
I always pictured the prodigal son returning home, putting his disgrace behind him and becoming a model son. Reality tells me that this is highly unlikely. I know I struggle with the same things in my spiritual life over and over. I come back to the one line in the Act of Contrition that I can always remember and I beat myself up for not being able to “go forth and sin no more”. How unfair! How unrealistic! The Sacrament of Reconciliation was never meant to be a one-shot deal. There’s a reason it’s offered every week. As a flawed human being I will always have things that I struggle with and God knows that, which is why His mercy and forgiveness are always there for us.
So the prodigal son most likely had his moments, too. He probably got enough of his older brother’s condescension or his father’s too-high expectations. He probably took his weekly wages into town on more than one occasion and partied like a rock star, only to come crawling home again broke and disgusted with himself. Only now instead of staying away from the estate starving and slopping hogs, he knew he could come home and brush off the dirt. He knew he was still worthy to sit at his father’s table. No matter whether big brother ever accepted him or not, his father loved him. He knew he would always be welcomed home with open arms. It’s a lesson I’ve always struggled to accept.
But I’m slowly learning it’s time to lighten up on myself a bit. I will always be welcomed at God’s table, even when I’m struggling and don’t have it all together. Being a perfectionist can be exhausting emotionally and spiritually. Somehow I’m starting to think that seeking perfection will always be my greatest flaw. But only God is truly perfect. He must laugh at my silly journey from imperfection to imperfection, knowing I’ll need Him to forgive each inevitable flaw that marks my earthly path. I’m glad God has a sense of humor.