Too much coffee and no ten-year awards.

If you filled up each of these cups at least once, maybe twice, that would about equal the amount of coffee I’ve had this morning.  After I woke up and drank my first half of a cup of coffee (accompanied by two blueberry muffins and a passage in Luke), I got a last-minute invitation to eat breakfast again.  So, rather than eat the morning meal twice, I just had coffee.  And the waitress kept coming back to give me more.  And so now my fingers are moving at 100 mph on this keyboard, and I’m slightly bouncing on the yoga ball that serves as our computer desk chair because of the force of my fingers hitting the keys.

I may need to rollerblade later to use this energy productively.

Before this excess of energy set in, I was reading Luke 15 this morning, the story of the Lost Son (or the Prodigal Son).  And I realized that I didn’t really understand it.  synopsis: man has two sons.  son number 2 asks for his share of the inheritance. Dad gives it to him, and Son #2 takes off to live wildly.  son runs out of money.  son ends up feeding pigs and is so hungry that what they’re eating looks good.  Son remembers that even the servants in his father’s household have enough to eat.  Son makes a plan to tell his father that he’s made a big mistake, would he take him back as a servant?

Then, “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.”

Then he commences to kill the fattened calf, throw a party, and celebrate the return of his son.  Son #1, who has faithfully served his father this entire time, won’t join in the celebrations.  He’s bitter about the whole thing.  So his dad goes to talk to him, saying, “My son, 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.”

So, there you have it.  The prodigal son’s story.

Prodigaladjective

1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
2. giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually followed by of or with ): prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
3. lavishly abundant; profuse: nature’s prodigal resources.
Here’s where I get hung up on this story.  So, the good son was there the entire time, but the father celebrates when the bratty, disloyal son comes home.  (No, Brooke, I’m not being passive aggressive and referring to you.  I love you.) And this story is supposed to illustrate how happy God is when we repent and turn from our wickedness to him.  To be the prodigal and feel accepted again, to be loved despite all your failures, would be such a great feeling.  Not only does he welcome him back, but he throws a party!  How humbling!
Then, we pan away from the celebration tent to the corner of the sheep pen, where Son #1 is brooding in the dark.
Good grief. I’ve been here all along, faithfully serving my father.  I have friends.  I might have wanted to kill a goat (which isn’t even that great of food, apparently) , but no, my father never offers to let me celebrate with my friends.  I’ve never been so irresponsible with money.  And this kid basically told my father that he didn’t care about him; he just wanted his money – which he wasn’t even supposed to get til my father died! and here he comes, looking so pitiful.  He’s been in the pig pen, unclean, starving.  And what does my father do?  He doesn’t reprimand him, doesn’t tell him he’s made a huge mistake and he’s only here on good behavior.  NO!  He makes a huge deal about it.  And all our family and friends are here, celebrating his return.  Don’t they think it’s weird?
His bitterness is understandable.  Obviously, he’s stuck in his own little world, not realizing that the other brother has realized that his choices only brought death. That he wasn’t happy in the other lifestyle and eventually realized his error in leaving home.
This year is a big one for my family in milestones: I kicked it off by turning 18, then Brooke turned 21.  Then my mom turned 30 (again.  We don’t know how she keeps doing that.).  I graduated from high school.  Brooke will graduate in December from college.  I go to college in August.  My dad will turn 30 again in November.  (funny how that worked out too.) It’s my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary this August.  (don’t try to reconcile that with their ages.) And the list goes on.
We’ve been celebrating all year.  And we will continue to.  Celebration is warranted.
The prodigal son gave his father no reason to want to celebrate him.  He gave his father every reason to cry, to be bitter, to be angry.  and yet, his father welcomes him home.  Just like God welcomes us back into the family when we turn to Him.
I really empathizes with the crabby older brother today though.  He did stick around when his brother left.  He served faithfully.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of reward for him?
I realized something though: the reward in living in right relationship with God isn’t that you get ten-year awards for a solid ten years of service.  You don’t get pats on the back when you shape up and do what’s right.  Because that’s what you’ve committed to.  God is pleased with you for it.  The reward comes later, and it’s eternal.  Our earthly reward isn’t to have a life where we always have a reason to have a party, but that we always have our hope for the future.  That wherever we are right now, God is present with us, and He will bring us through it.  And He gives us blessings along the way, sometimes ones we don’t even acknowledge.
And I think I’m all right with that. When someone is delivered out of darkness and into light, it is cause for celebration.  They’ve suffered in the darkness, even though they may not have known it at the time.  It’s likely that only when they experience rebirth that they realize how spiritually dead they were before.
Incredible how a simple story told 2,000 years ago can come alive again.  How it never died.
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