i am the older brother.
i stayed behind when my little brother, turned idiot, took off. i am nothing if not loyal. i’m sure you’ve heard about him leaving, it was all anyone could talk about. when he left, he ripped a hole in the very fabric of our family. i hated him. i hated him for what he did to our Father, for what he did to disgrace our family and i hated him for leaving me behind to deal with the fall out. yeah, life can be hard – so what? who doesn’t wish at some point for things to be better than they are. who hasn’t imagined a life that doesn’t require endless hours of back-breaking work from the time you wake before sunrise until long after dark when you fall, exhausted and spent, into a dreamless sleep.
i stayed. he left. my father wept.
every day, like clockwork as the sun sank low in the heavens, i knew that if i walked down the long corridor, through the courtyard to the east facing side of our home, i would find my Father there staring off in the direction he had watched my brother leave, toward the mountains that were first to go dark as the sun set behind his back. every day he stood and waited and silently prayed, his lips forming words with no sound, his face tilted toward the sky. he waited for my brother to return.
once i got past the shock, the heartbreak turned to anger – the anger turned to hatred and days turned to years. With every passing day i hated him more and more. i wanted to track him down just so i could take him by his cowardly shoulders and shake him till some sense was knocked loose in his daft head. he always daydreamed of faraway places, full of adventure and quick fortune. i would find him in the fields with the plow suspended in his hands staring off into nothing, barely a drop of sweat on his face, while my shirt was plastered to my back. he hated the hard work of plowing the unforgiving ground. he was always scheming to find an easier way, a shortcut, a loophole. But I would pop him in the back of the head to wake him up and tell him – “you just have to do the work. If you want to eat, you just do what you have to do.” I always did my work. Always. But no one seemed to notice.
I guess he finally found his loophole. He cashed in on everything my Father had accomplished and took off to find a better life, crippling our family in the process. what arrogance. what selfishness. how totally unforgivable. So we limped along financially, cutting corners, doing without, rebuilding what he had wrecked. Until we were finally back on our feet. We had actually started making a profit again. These have been long, hard years.
Then one day when the sun was casting long shadows that pointed toward the mountains, i heard a sound i will never forget. It echoed over the fields and reverberated through my body. It was the sound of ultimate grief and mourning escaping my Father’s lips. The countless, silent prayers had found voice and surged out of him with excruciating ferocity. As the last echo rang out, the sun fled behind the western horizon and darkness covered our land. In the wake of my Father’s grieving everything grew strangely still. Nothing moved, even the Wind gasped and stood still. That was the longest night of my life.
Three days later my brother came home – his clothes in shreds and rancid with the foul odor of a pig sty. The servants in the east orchard tell me my Father ran all the way to him – just grabbed fistfuls of his cloak and ran as hard as he could down the rocky path to the end of the orchard to the high street where the merchants gather to trade. The way they tell it, my Father was screaming my brothers name, screaming to every servant he passed a different order – “go kill the calf! go get my robe! go get my ring and some shoes! go tell his mother! My son has come back from the dead!!!” He was red faced and winded when he reached my brother and threw his arms around him. I’m still reeling from the impropriety. Respectable men don’t run. Children run. But my Father hasn’t shown one ounce of shame. He just walks around the house with a smile on his face.
The party was spectacular. The sound of it rolled down the hillside where i was coming back from another day at the plow. i grabbed the nearest servant and demanded to know what was happening and why hadn’t i been told we were having a party? He’s home!” the servant gasped, “he was lost and now he’s found! he was dead and is alive!” Your Father has killed the calf – the whole neighborhood is here!” he flailed in excitement as he spoke. “even the merchants down the lane are here celebrating, you should have seen it! Your Father RAN all the…” i shoved him aside, seeing red as i raced toward the house and there he was, just continuing the party he started years ago at the expense of my Father’s estate. There are no words for what i felt. I felt everything all at once – disbelief, shock, betrayal, rage. My Father walked out onto the porch where I was standing, unable to move, unwilling to go inside and be a part of what was going on.
“NO!! how could you?” I screamed. “How could you let him come back?! Not after everything we’ve been through, not after we finally got back on our feet!” Blinded by tears i took in a ragged breath and kept screaming, my knuckles turning white from clenched fists. “I did EVERYTHING you wanted, I’ve worked my fingers to the bone for YOU, to undo all the damage that he caused. And where’s MY party? Where is the rejoicing for MY choices?” I don’t even remember all I said, it poured like poisonous water, burning my lungs as the words tore out of me. My Father just stood there and let me scream until I said all the words i had, and fell silent. I had never seen that look in his eyes and I was suddenly afraid. I steeled my resolve to not run. I could take it -whatever he had to say.
“Son,” his voice was cool water on a fire. “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours. Don’t you see? We had to celebrate, because your brother was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
I stared at my Father. His words struck me to the core, unraveling the fear and darkness in my heart. It was like waking up from a deep sleep. Suddenly I couldn’t even think of my brother, all i could see was my Father’s face. All I knew was the Love in His eyes and His words ringing through my head that made my world stand on end. Everything that is His is mine. And suddenly I came to my senses and saw that I had been working like one of the servants. I had put my shoulder to the plow with a dead heart and no understanding of the reality of being my Father’s son. Everything began to glow red in the setting sun and the dawning of my revelation. I can never work hard enough to be his son more, or earn more of his love for me, or build something for Him that doesn’t already belong to me. This changes everything.
Yesterday I threw a party. I put a couple goats on the spit, invited all my friends and made a toast to my brother. It’s good to be a son – a son with a Good Father.
you can find the (sort of) part one to this post here.