What the Prodigal Son’s Older Brother Might Have Learned

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I have been struggling for years in a circumstance where I thought someone would turn out to be a friend, but things went very differently and my feelings have been incredibly hurt. As a follower of Christ, I keep searching for ways to forgive, but it doesn’t seem to work. I still see this person — with whom I have very little contact — as someone who is a moral coward and a con artist.

The funny thing is that, until a few weeks ago, I thought I was making progress. Then something happened where I felt this individual received recognition and responsibility far beyond what should be entrusted, and it was like I was reliving every painful moment all over again.

I began an earnest search through prayer and scripture study to put this to bed once and for all. Instead, I learned that the lessons I am learning are so important that they are going to take a long time. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I decided to accept it and keep searching and learning.

As I was preparing to write a blog entry this morning, I was pointed back to Luke 15 which contains three parables, including the parable of the Prodigal Son. I’ve always loved the part about the father welcoming the repentant son home, because I love knowing that the same love and welcome is waiting for me as soon as I “come to myself,” put my pride aside, and recommit to living my life as God asks.

Realizing that I’m also the older brother is a little harder. The parable talks about the father inviting his elder son to come in and rejoice, but the brother just can’t forgive. And the story ends right about there. I have to believe the story ends without resolving the issue on purpose — people like me have to wrestle with our own endings. Will we let our pride, anger, and resentment go, or will we continue to wait outside until our demands are met?

Usually, just a simple recognition like this would be enough for me to move on, but it hasn’t been in this case. Not only have I not received any apology or even any sign of remorse from the person who hurt me so badly, but I can’t see that they’ve learned anything from the mess they got themselves into — I feel like it’s all just a big con game about saving face and phony reputations, even to the point of trying to ruin mine to those who only know me a little bit!

So, what have I learned as the “older brother”?

  • God cares, even when I’m angry. He didn’t just walk away in disappointment that I’ve been struggling for so long. He is kind enough to recognize that what I am right now isn’t who I want to be, and He honors that. He keeps leading me and guiding me as I’m willing, and that will eventually get me to where I want to be.
  • Each of us is a work in progress. Honor and responsibility in the church aren’t signs that we have achieved any certain level of “goodness,” it just means that we’re moving on to our next lessons.
  • Each person’s spiritual growth is dependent upon their own willingness to be humble and to put in the effort it takes. I can only grow myself and encourage others.
  • Heber J Grant promised that if we make a sure commitment to accomplishing whatever task God sets before us, God will make sure we have the ability to get it done. I can commit to learning to properly forgive, and it will happen.
  • Maybe this struggle to forgive and love without any remorse from the “offender” is actually an opportunity to understand God a little more deeply. How many times have I offended him and forgotten to even tell him I’m sorry? How does that feel to him? And yet, he loves me just the same.
  • There will come a time in my eternal existence, when I will look back with my own regrets that I ever let this get to be such a big deal. There will come a time when I will see exactly how eternally insignificant the slights I experienced really were, and I will instead be swallowed up in gratitude for all that I have been stretched to become and all the blessings that I have received. Living in true faith means living as if that time is already here.

While I still would prefer not to behave like the Prodigal Son’s older brother, I do have to admit that I am learning some key lessons that will make me a better, wiser woman. God truly can and will turn every experience in life to the good of those who love him and try to keep his commandments and follow him!