Confessions of an Older Brother

“I will get up and go to my Father, and will say to Him, ‘Father I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight . . .’” (Luke 15:18)1

. . . I realize that I have fallen far short of being your child. I have acted just like a hired servant.

My response the other day opened my eyes. When my brother returned from his trip and you threw that party, I was so angry. I am sorry. You simply stated the truth: I have always been with you and everything of yours has been available to me. Instead of enjoying you, Father, I lived close, but detached. My body was here, talking to you a bit every day without really listening; my heart and mind were further from you than my brother ever wandered.

It was all about control. I made myself central, not you. I got my sense of worth from contributing my tokens, working hard in the field, obeying your commands, keeping my outward appearances impeccable. It was a balancing act: doing all the right things to seem like the model son to myself and everyone around, but ignoring my inner life and our relationship. My life was static and routine, our relationship disengaged. How was I ever satisfied with that? I guess it made me feel good to succeed at controlling something. I think they call it ‘religion’.

I tried to control you the other day, didn’t I? I refused to come in to you; I made a servant find out what was going on and forced you to come out to me. I used my angry words in an attempt to change your response to my brother. I thought you should have punished him, shown him how hurt and shamed you were by his selfish debauchery. All you ever did was to get emotional and excited. You went beyond acceptance. You gave him all the symbols of sonship: a robe to cover his rags, that ring of authority, and a special barbecue—no expense spared.

That’s what I was clueless about—your generosity. I doubted whether you could afford things. I thought your job was to surprise me occasionally. You wanted me to ask—anytime and often—not because you are reluctant but because you are looking for a certain kind of relationship between us. You want me to trust your love and abundance so much that I am free to make my requests whenever. You delight to give good things to your children. All that is yours is mine.

My brother too. He’s mine. Wow, I missed that one! That shows how superficial my part in your family has been. All the outward signs, but no heart, no relationships. Children are supposed to be like their parents; I had the character of a heartless robot.

So, from here on, please help me to change. Thank you that you receive me just as you did my brother. I will make you central, not your work. You want us to do life together, you speaking and guiding while my brother and I watch, learn, and join in business. I need to do a lot more listening. I will trust you and surrender to your ways. I realize that is how we become more like you. Keeping close to you will help me check my attitude too. And I see that there is no arriving; the world is always shifting and there is always more to learn from you about how to respond to people and situations. Whew, I must have been dead; I already feel I’m beginning to live.

  1. These are the words of the younger brother, but I imagine the older brother saying something similar if he ever came to his senses. []

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