Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Precious prodigal

Yesterday I was on the phone with a friend who had actually been given the afternoon off for Good Friday. Unfortunately she'd become very angry with her boss just before she left work, and the afternoon -- which could have been a wonderful time of relaxation or meditation -- was spent instead, not just in rehearsing her anger from the morning, but also being angry with herself for wasting an afternoon being angry.

I was reading Freeman's Jesus the Teacher Within this morning, and he gave me a wonderful new perspective on this human propensity for self- flagellation:

"Like the prodigal son, after frequent bouts of self-indulgence, we 'come to our senses' not once but as many times as necessary. We turn round again and return home. We also have to deal with the condemnatory elder brother syndrome in our own psyche. Above all, like both sons, we have to learn who the Father really is who welcomes us back so humbly and so often and calls us to join the feast of life he has put on for us."

It seems perfectly obvious, once you think about it. But I found this concept incredibly freeing, perhaps because I give way too much credence to that elder brother voice in me. I think it may be that I forget that his voice is NOT the father's voice, and allow my younger weaker self to believe that condemnation is both real and merited; get caught up in the squabbling dialog, driving those two parts of my psyche further apart rather than staying attuned to that larger deeper voice which holds them both so tenderly in one embrace.

I think many of us who choose to be conscious about our commitment to a spiritual life allow ourselves to be dominated by that inner elder brother -- in fact, I wonder if that isn't why the yoke of church becomes so heavy at times. We need to honor both the voices, to remember that each is loved, each created by God, each has an important role to play if we are to be fully realized. And thinking about this, I am reminded of that wonderful Mary Oliver poem, and think of the prodigal son as our "wild and precious life."

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?


Anonymous said...

Oooo, I love the concept. Ourselves playing all the parts in the parable. Hmmm, excellent food for thought! I must go chew on that for a while...

Gberger said...

One of my favorite poets, and poems. Thank you for posting it. XO