Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Prodigal

The day is bright. Margaret is watching Enchanted and eating pretzels. I just finished a breakfast of egg-n-a-nest followed by a brownie chaser. Today won't be all movies and eating. We are going to the park, taking treats to friends and (finally) removing the last of our Christmas lights. Yeah. We are totally THOSE people. Although, I would keep Christmas lights up all year long if only Riley would let me. Oh...I am so oppressed.

I disappeared from my blog last week because I was oh-so-anxiously preparing a lesson for our stake Relief Society conference. I think it may have come together alright in the end. We discussed the concept of perfection. That to be perfect does not mean freedom from error, instead it is a matter of allowing the Lord to make you whole. That the Atonement is not the cherry on top of everything you should have done, could have done, needed to do, right. Rather the Atonement, in its incomparable grace, is everything. It is perfect, it is complete, and through it so are we.

As I prepared the lesson the parable of the prodigal son kept returning to my thoughts. I have always had a great love for this story. I suppose it because I understand that by nature of my mortality, I too, am prodigal and hoping to return home.

The parable is the story of a young man who asks his father for his share of his inheritance, receives it and then leaves home. He goes off "into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living." The far off country is struck by a "mighty famine", and the prodigal son begins to starve. He goes to work for a man of this country, and is sent into the fields to feed pigs. This tragedy of descent was immediately understandable to Christ's contemporaries. Under the mosaic law, swine were considered unclean, to be associated with them was to invite dishonor. The poor prodigal gives the swine their meal of scraps and in his hunger he wishes he could lay down and eat with them. It is at this moment that his fall is complete. The man that once had the audacity to demand his inheritance, had become the boy that could not have a pig's portion.

It is in this darkness that the prodigal son remembers his home. He says,

"How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."

With this humble hope be begins his long walk home. "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." And there, in all its poignancy, our Savior gave us one of the most hopeful sentences contained in any book of scripture.

"But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him..."

The prodigal son's father was watching for him. Hoping for him. Straining his eyes, looking to the horizon, waiting for the first glimpse of his returning son.

"...and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him."

The distant form of his undeserving son appears against the sky and his father is moved not by a sense of justice or anger, rather he feels compassion. What majesty! The prodigal son began his return home aware of the consequences. He had brought dishonor upon his community and he knew that for this he could be greatly, painfully punished. His father knew this too, and so he runs to his son, robes gathered up in his hands, ankles exposed, his father runs to him without thought of self or dignity. He falls upon him and kisses him. This is not merely the greeting of a grieving father. It is an act of protection. The father casts himself upon his son and makes him his own again.

We all know the end of the story. The prodigal is brought home and restored to his father's house, he is given the robe, the ring, and the fatted calf. And there is joy, so much joy, for the son that "was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."

I know our Heavenly Father is watching for us on the horizon. I know that all we need to do is begin our walk to Him, just take one little step, and He will run to us. He will run and fall upon us and kiss our necks.

We will be protected. We will be forgiven. We will be restored.

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