"That’s not how the story of The Prodigal Son ends," they probably said to themselves, and, " I can’t believe she just dropped it that way– like the father threw this big party and then everyone was happy, and that was the end of it!"
Anyone who loves that other son as much as I do, I think, would have had to have noticed the missing ending -- and besides, it's only fair to finish a good story once you've started it. So here's what happens:
When the other son sees all this – the party, the killing of the fatted calf, the whole production – he goes to his father and says, “Hey, you know what, Dad? I’ve never asked you for my inheritance and then blown it all on prostitutes and wild living. I’ve stayed with you this whole time, working in the fields and behaving myself, and never once have you thrown a party for me. Never once have you killed a fatted calf for me or brought out any beautiful robes or anointing oils for me – so you can just forget about my coming to your little party. I think I'll just stay out here in these fields and keep working, if it's all the same to you."
To which the father responds: “You are my son, and everything I own is yours – all of this and everything for as far as the eye can see, belongs to you.
"But this is also my son, " he tells him, "who was lost, and now is found.
“So please,” he says, “come to party.”
Which the other son does. And I like to think he had a pretty good time, too.
When I was first recovering from my alcoholism and beginning on my journey to find a God of my understanding to help me recover and put my life into some kind of order – one personal to me that I could feel – it was a very difficult time for me. I began with nothing I could see or understand, hadn’t the least interest in seeking help with it from organized religion, and I couldn’t imagine how I was going to begin to find this God.
It’s a long story, but the point I want make here is that there have been times in my life when I’ve felt like the son who squanders his God-given fortune and anticipates the worst because of it, and other times I’ve felt like the good son who’s been behaving himself all along and then feels he isn’t getting near enough credit for it.
I believed at one time that if I just kept trying to be “good,” God would let me know that they (she/he/it) approved of me and would finally love me, too. I would see other people I felt were misbehaving terribly and listen with real indignation when they would speak of a God they knew in their lives who loved them.
I would think: “Well shit, what’s up with this party that God’s giving for them? No one’s been killing any fatted calves for me! And here I am, being so good!”
Anyway. That’s why I love the other son so much. And that’s all I’m going to say about it, too.
There is one more thing I’m going to say, and it’s really just a disclaimer, for what it’s worth: I am not a Christian or member of any organized religion. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’m no more or less a Christian than I am more or less anything else, religiously speaking... but I sure do love a good story.
And I think that -- like screaming along to the noisiest and rock and roll, or like a slow trip through a museum of modern art, or like the attentive working of a jigsaw puzzle with my daughter, or like holding hands with my husband and knowing it – a good story is as fine as anyplace to find God.
As my hero Kurt Vonnegut once said: "Love is where you find it," and I would say that it is the same way with God.
Or rather, that it is the same thing with God -- the exact same thing, in fact.