For a number of years, I related the biblical parable of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11–32) to my life in a negative way. A loved family member was the female equivalent of the prodigal son, and I, the faithful son who stayed home – or so it seemed to me.
When her version of "riotous living" was over, despite the disruption that her activity had caused, another family member offered her a week-long trip to Florida.
While I couldn't have gone anyway because of other commitments, I justified the resentment I felt. After all the months of anguish she had put our family through, why should she be rewarded with a trip to Florida?
The father's warm welcome of the prodigal after he had "wasted his substance with riotous living" seemed to me to leave the prodigal's brother wondering where he fit in with his father's love.
He had asked nothing from his father in the way of his inheritance but had remained faithful to his father's perceptions of a good son's demeanor.
Hadn't I done the same? For a considerable period of time, I brooded about what I thought of as the "unfair" parable, its message eluding me.
I knew there had to be an explanation that would satisfy me. Indeed, during the intervening years I had read or heard how an understanding of this parable had helped others. But I remained resistant rather than receptive to any rationale for the father's perceived partiality. Instead, I accepted the story on faith but without the comfort of knowing what its message was for me.
I finally realized that it was time to open my thought to this parable's spiritual significance. One day soon after that, like the final piece fitting into a puzzle, I suddenly got it. The simplicity of the answer surprised me, and I didn't see how I could have missed it for so long.
What came to me was that the father whom Jesus referred to in the parable represented God. It was God who showered each son with His blessings right where that son was in his individual experience – forgiveness for the wayward son who spent his inheritance in riotous living; and assurance to the dutiful son who remained at home with his father, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine."
What greater gift could be given that faithful son than the declaration that he already possessed all the good that God bestows upon His loved offspring?
This awakening to an inspired interpretation of Jesus' parable settled my thought about what I had come to label as the unfair parable and healed that subtle resentment I'd been harboring. Both the loved family member and I were equally wrapped in God's love.
Knowing with a certainty that we are the cherished offspring of God, we can feel His presence in our own life. We, like the two brothers, are already included in God's allness as witnesses to His generous pardon and tender assurance of our sonship with Him. His never-changing love for us redeems and renews whether we perceive ourselves as the prodigal or the brother.
The 19th-century Bible scholar who founded Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, put it this way: "The real man being linked by Science to his Maker, mortals need only turn from sin and lose sight of mortal selfhood to find Christ, the real man and his relation to God, and to recognize the divine sonship" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 316).
The story has come full circle for me. I couldn't be outside God's all-embracing love, and neither could my family member. In truth, neither can any of us. Each one can feel touched and blessed by the Father's love.
What more could we ask?
Yea, I have loved thee
with an everlasting love.