The Lost Son


“Family is really important to me, but strangely enough family is not necessarily your blood… Sometimes our family lets us down and we end up creating a new family for ourselves. And family is really people that you know you can rely on, people who won’t judge you, people who have your back, people you can trust, people who are loyal.” ~ Madonna

There’s a lot about the Bible that pisses me off. Some of the lessons are noble and true, some of the sentiment is powerful, but much is antiquated and too easily misread. One of the biggest stories that has always bothered me was that of The Prodigal Son. Maybe it just hit too close to home. Maybe I just need to learn forgiveness. Or maybe there is no justice in the world and there never was.

The Parable of the Lost Son

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Moral of the story? The son who has fun, fucks up his life, and goes back to beg for more ends up in a better position than the son who behaves and becomes a productive member of society. Granted, there is some higher forgiveness and grace at work (at least I hope), but there is no way that this supersedes the bottom line that if you’re bad, you get the help and the love and the forgiveness and the compassion and the fucking fatted calf.

Way back in high school, when I had already seen the rift between the recognition, help and attention the kids who behaved and did well got as opposed to the ones who messed around, got arrested, and did whatever they wanted to do, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the local newspaper lamenting the way some of those good kids were treated – or not treated as the case may be. It’s about more than getting attention. Everyone always pulls the attention card and thinks that’s it. Newsflash: some of us don’t need any help getting attention. As far as it being a case of whining and complaining that ‘It’s not fair!’ well, it’s not. And if life is unfair, it’s because certain people make it so, and others let it happen.

There are a few choices. Work your ass off, do what you’re supposed to do, and be a responsible, decent human being. It’s not always fun, but it’s the right thing to do. Or, give in to whatever wish and whim you want, fuck up and have a blast. It’s way more fun, and if someone’s going to be there to take care of you and your kids when you need it, why not live it up? A friend suggested that I find a surrogate mother, have a baby, squander my money on a ridiculously lavish house and cars and motorcycles and become the son in need. My friend’s mother, when confronted with the age-old question of which child she favored the most, used to say, “The one that needs me the most.” There’s something very sweet in that, and something so unjust it makes my heart break.

“Family isn’t blood,” she said bitterly, continuing to back away. “Family is who loves you, who takes care of you.”  ― Bruce Coville

The real lost sons are the ones who take care of themselves, who pay their credit card bills in full every month, who don’t make impetuous selfish decisions, who don’t fuck up their lives, and who don’t expect anything from anyone. We’re not lost because we can’t take care of ourselves, we’re lost because it hurts so much and we never say it.

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