I once told you the story of my sister and I wandering off, down the beach, moving from sand castle to sand castle. In our fascination, we moved far afield from our parents. When I told you the story the last time, I focused mostly on my parents’ reactions, their fear and relief mingling, and specifically the way that fear and relief rolled down my mother’s face, in tears of joy.
But every story looks a little different from the eyes of each character. You see, as I watched my parents greet us with evident relief I felt immediately and enormously guilty. I had led my sister astray. I had failed to stay where I was meant to be. I had terrified my mother. Those tears she shed, they were my fault. I had inconvenienced the life guards. I had interrupted the pleasant day other people on the beach were having.
Now I want to be clear, that responsibility was my story, entirely. I’m not repeating what my parents had taught me explicitly or implicitly. They didn’t put that on me. It was entirely my creation. I created a story where I was directly and solely responsible for not just my happiness, but that of my family, lifeguards, and everyone on the beach. And it made me miserable, for a little while. Then, because I was five, I was soothed with hugs, parental affection and since we were at the beach, likely ice cream.
Thankfully, in so many ways my sister is smarter than I am. You can tell her I said that. Her reaction to this adventure: she was glad to see my parents. She was happy to show them the cool sand castles we had seen. She didn’t create a story where she was so important she could let down an entire beach full of people. She received the gift of grace and moved on to the next sand castle.
This Sunday, we hear again the story of the prodigal son, or is it the prodigal father, or maybe the story of the grumpy, overly responsible older brother who has created a story where he is responsible for the weight of the world, not to mention under appreciated? Whose story is it? Yours, mine, or maybe it’s a story of God’s grace given in whatever form we need it most: a party, a hug, a welcome, a cool sand castle, even ice cream.
I’ll see you on Sunday,