It’s a few hours before dawn. A cool, refreshing breeze is drifting through our window…a perfect night for a peaceful rest, but a restless volcano churns within my soul as I toss and turn and moan.
I should be elated! Our wayward son has returned home. Why can I not rejoice as my husband has?
Yesterday afternoon, my husband set out to take up his post at our gate, a daily ritual for him. “Old fool,” I muttered to myself as he made his way from our dwelling. “That boy’s never coming home, and after the shame and heartache he’s put this family through, it’s probably best for all of us if he just stays away.”
I was in the kitchen around half past two, discussing the evening meal with the servants, when I heard loud commotion outside the house. “Whatever could it be?” I wondered as I stuck my head out the door.
An unbelievable sight met my eyes. There was my husband, richly clad in his elaborate attire, his arm thrown around what appeared to be nothing but a filthy street urchin. I could smell the waif clear from my post at the door, and the tattered rags he wore on his skeleton of a body looked like they were about to disintegrate right before my very eyes!! But he was covered from head to toe in coal-black grime, so I don’t suppose it would have mattered much if they had.
My husband, shamelessly weeping tears of joy, called out to me, “Esther!! Our boy’s finally come home!! Didn’t I always tell you he would?”
This unsightly, reeking creature was my firstborn? I cannot begin to tell you of my horror and repulsion!! What was my husband celebrating?
But there was no time for discussion as my husband set the festivities into motion. Servants were sent to draw a luxurious bath for this prodigal boy of ours, and the evening menu was altered to include the roasting of our very best fatted calf. More servants were dispersed throughout the village to spread the news: a feast would be held tonight in honor of the homecoming of our firstborn son.
I got through it all, a smile pasted onto my countenance. But underneath the facade, I was seething.
How dare this boy, who had all but wished his own father dead, come staggering home after wasting his part of our hard-earned fortune? And after all the pain and humiliation our son had put us through, how could my husband possibly welcome him home with such a lavish celebration? Had he lost his head?
My son Jonas, the boy who has always found a way to break the rules, had done it again, and gotten away with it. And my husband seemed to be right there with him.
My husband says God wants us to forgive and love our son. What about the Scriptural requirements of righteousness? Is God a rule-breaker, too?
The only male in our family who seems to have maintained his sanity is our second boy, Isaac. Isaac, the faithful son, who has always served his parents humbly and blamelessly. How I can understand his resentment when he came home to find his father throwing a party for the brother who had shirked all his responsibility, leaving Isaac to pick up the pieces!
But the uneasiness in my soul comes from my anger at myself, also. I can deny it no longer: I shoulder responsibility for Jonas’ downfall. All through his growing up years I played favorites, allowing him to get away with his rule-breaking. I interfered with my husband’s attempts to train him up right, instead indulging Jonas’ every whim.
If I had been a more responsible parent, perhaps he would never have messed up his life.
Because party or no party, Jonas has squandered his inheritance. If only he had left it to his father’s prosperous hand, to allow it to multiply as a result of God’s blessing, he would have finished out his years a very wealthy man.
Now, though he will always have a home, he will have to either make his own way in life, or serve his younger brother. For all that we have now justly belongs to Isaac.
To think of my eldest living out this reproach all of his days pains me to no end.
My Jonas is reaping what he has sown for sure and for certain. Perhaps God isn’t such a rule-breaker after all.