The Prodigal's Brother and Me

{Sunset in Mongolia}
[The older son] was angry and would not go in [to the party]. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.' | Luke 15: 28-30

Have you ever been in the shoes of the prodigal's older brother?

I have. Mainly when I'm impressed with someone's conversion story and I'm envious of the beautiful (and obvious) way the Savior transformed their life into something new. It's nothing less than extraordinary! Leaving me feeling extra ordinary.

Where's my Cinderella-esque magical transformation?

You can hear the pouting, can't you? Because statements and jealousy like that always come with pouting in a field somewhere.

Emily Freeman talks about this story in her book Grace for the Good Girl. (By the way, highly recommend, and will "review it" when I'm done reading it). She specifically talks about the very personal ways she identifies with the older brother:

The good girl in me stands there with her arms crossed, wishing she had a story to tell that would draw crowds and change lives. In my mind, I know I'm better off without the scars and the hurt and the pain and the darkness. In my head, I know all the grace and love offered to them is available to me. But sometimes it doesn't feel fair that God seems to most powerfully use those who have chosen wrong and then come back again instead of those who did it right the first time. Where is the celebration for us? {p. 100}

It's so true for me that I could have written that. Of course, she brings it all around, but that's her chapter. I have something else to share. After the conclusion of the chapter she asks the question, In what ways are you living like a servant rather than a daughter?

Besides for pouting, I wasn't sure. Then I realized, there's a distinct difference between the son and the servant, and the father mentions it in verse 31:
And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.' {Luke 15:31}
The son remains in the father's presence and has everything that is the father's. I am living like a servant rather than a daughter when I don't accept this and join in the daily activities of the Father. The son that stayed in the father's house didn't miss out on daily meal times and conversations and, basically, the ongoing celebrating of staying in the father's house. So why was he out in the field as the party began? He easily could have been there on the welcoming side of the party. Instead, he placed himself as outcast in the field.

Yes, it's true, that at some level we all must have our "prodigal moment" when the Father personally welcomes us into a life with Him. And for some of us, that moment seems hardly worth mentioning possibly because it's been a lifelong welcoming rather than a precise hit-rock-bottom moment so it can't quite be identified. Then, the realization comes that I don't have one moment, I have many moments of living with Christ that make up my story. It's the story the older brother could share if he wasn't too busy pouting and playing the comparison game.

So I thought about it some more and came up with three examples that make up my story. Instances of life with the Father. Instances that could have never happened if I was too busy rebelling. Instances worth sharing, because of the grace and love and power of Christ.

Moment 1: Life-Brightening Band-Aid

{Still my besties}

It was my sophomore year of high school and I was having a bad day--the sort of "bad day" only teenagers can experience. I didn't study for a big history test that would be later that day, the boyfriend of the time and I were not agreeing on something, and of course my confidence wavered. I started the day praying "Lord, show me you care" and that became the chant in my head. I was with my two best friends in our dorm room, one sitting at her desk, one propped up on the bottom bunk, and me discontentedly primping in the mirror.

After complaining about everything wrong in my life, I mentioned I wanted a band-aid to make everything better. You know, a symbolic gesture like mom used to give to know it would be alright. We even asked down our hall but teenage girls just don't keep band-aids. So I went off to class. Didn't get anything resolved with the boyfriend. Definitely did not pass the history test. So I headed back to my room during a free period figuring a nap could help or at least help me hide.

I opened the door and just inside was a package. From "Ellie Phunt." I knew right away it was from a friend of my brother's. That and "Broc Lee" were just a couple of the funky names she joked about using for her future kids. But why was she sending me a package? I opened it and couldn't help but laugh. Inside was a little bit of everything. Crazy toe socks, baby shampoo, spider rings, confetti, candy. And for no apparent reason. I couldn't believe that days before I needed this pick-me-up, God lead a pretty random source to send it to me.

I opened the card and laughed even more.

But I paused when I got to the end. Her "PS"...
 P.S. I hope you like the band-aid.
I couldn't believe it. I looked back through the box and sure enough, beneath all these crazy, laugh-inducing things, was one small, otherwise un-noteworthy circle band-aid.

{"P.S. I hope you like the bandaid."}

Seriously, I pull out the card to this day and get chills thinking about the day God answered my prayer for a band-aid.

Moment 2: Life-Changing Experience

Again, in my sophomore year of high school, another bad day (man, apparently that was a rough year for me), in my friend's dorm room I was telling her about boyfriend issues and mentioned that I just wanted to get away from it all. She jokingly offered that I could come home with her at the end of the school year. She would be graduating and, because she was still only 16, her parents wanted her home a year before starting college. Being missionaries, "home" for them was Mongolia.

{Tickets for a couple of my first plane rides}

We talked about how great that would be. I jokingly brought it up to my parents, who in all seriousness said that we should discuss it. What?! She also mentioned the offer to her parents who also, amazingly took the conversation seriously.

{Me with the Tunnells in Hawaii on our way to Mongolia}

Looking back, I really don't remember what happened with that whole conversation to get us from A to B. But with prayers and adult-like conversation, it was decided that I would spend my junior year of high school with my friend and her family in Mongolia.

Moment 3: Life-Leading Direction

{My little family in Florida}

Fast forward several years and I'm married with two kids living in Florida. For a second year things are not improving at Daniel's job and we know he won't be working there the following year. Together we pray and decide it's time for him to take a break from teaching. But what now?

Without him finding another similar conference position everything is up in the air. Insurance, income, moving location, moving expenses. Everything. So we prayerfully move forward. Doing Project Eliminate and selling/getting rid of much of our stuff. Budgeting and planning carefully for our move back "home" to the midwest. Like Abraham, we went out not knowing where we were going. (Hebrews 11:8)

Thankfully we have loving and supportive and understanding family welcoming us into their 2-bedroom apartment. Our remaining earthly positions are put into storage and we pursue the one job that Daniel has wanted since the beginning (not a few months ago when this all began, but the beginning of his first initial job searching after graduation).

While he's interviewing for his desired job--the only job in the mix--I get an unexpected call from someone offering me part-time work. And I wasn't even looking. Daniel's interview goes well and he gets his job. We find an apartment within walking distance of his work and next to a great little preschool for Brylee. Our tiny savings covers our moving expenses and month of no income (praise God!) and everything works out better than we could have hoped or imagined.

And such is the life...

{ "my" Hawaii :) }

Son, you are always with me and all that I have is yours. | Luke 15:31
And such is the life of a Child of God. The life that the older brother should have been experiencing, the life that the prodigal will experience now that he is welcomed home, and the life that we experience when we're always with Christ and when all He has is ours.

It's not about one moment, it's about a life full of moments.


also read:
courageous at home
a story to tell
say yes

Linked up: Call Me Blessed // Prodigal Magazine