Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Prodigal Son, as told by 8-year-old Neil

Neil will be 8 on Saturday. Recently he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which I'm still getting my brain around ... but basically, it's a form of autism.

This has helped to explain a lot of mysteries about my beautiful miracle boy ... but what has continually amazed me is that despite many of his struggles, he retains the details of Bible stories after hearing them only once.

Today he heard the story of the Prodigal Son. His version, though, is uniquely Neil's -- and uniquely gorgeous.

Here's how he told it to me a couple of hours ago:

"Well, Mommy, see, there was this little boy. And he told his daddy, 'Give me money!' So his daddy gave him lots of money, and he went away on a loooooooooong trip. He made lots of friends. They helped him spend the money.

But then, the money was gone! He was poor.

So he decided to get a job. And you know what his job was, Mommy? He decided to FEED PIGS! (laughs)

But he was soooooooooo hungry. He decided he'd eat the pig's food. It was yucky. So he said, 'I think I'll go home now.'

His daddy gave him a big hug and threw a party. He thought he'd be a servant, but his daddy said he was still his boy."

At this point, I interrupted Neil and started to interject the meaning behind the story, but he cut me off.

"Wait, Mommy. There's more!" he told me. "The little boy had a big brudder (Neil's pronounciation). And this brudder was good. (Neil holds up his chubby hands and makes the sign for quotes when he says, "good.")

But he really WASN'T good. He had a bad heart.

When he heard the party music, he got mad! He went to his room and played on his computer. He was MAD. So his daddy came to his room. He said, 'Why don't you come down to the party?' And the big brudder said, 'I've been a good boy, but you don't even give me a goat. My little brudder spent all the money, and you gave him a big party.'

His daddy wanted him to come down to the party, but you know what, Mommy? That big brudder wouldn't come. He just sat in his room and kept being mad."

I was amazed at how Neil relayed the story of the elder brother. But what amazed me even more was that he didn't understand the point of the story. We had to talk about it afterwards.

It got me thinking ... how many of us miss that part of the Prodigal Son's tale, or conveniently overlook it?

This past week I fielded some comments at another blog of mine, Family Giving. They were directed at my church's acceptance of homosexuals. I didn't post any of the comments .... but Neil's version of the older brother in the Prodigal Son jarred me today.

How many people will be surprised to see those they hate ... being celebrated in Heaven?

How many people who go in and out of church doors week after week after week ... who esteem their lifestyles as holier than others ... will be angry that those others will be at the Lamb's feast?

See ... did you notice that when the Prodigal Son showed up, he returned not as a shining example of the perfect kid? He was filthy, covered in pig slime. He'd spent all the money. He'd trashed his dad's name. He came home thinking that he'd just be a servant. Boy, was he ever surprised when his dad hugged him and threw a party, yes?

And boy, was that older brother angry about it.

We never find out what happened to the older brother. I suspect that was Jesus's point, because all of us at one point or another don't want the younger brother to show up.

The thing is, though -- when the younger brother does return, do we say, "Unforgiveable! You had your chance! Take your filthy self and leave!"

Or do we celebrate with the Father that the lost sibling has returned?

Maybe Jesus left this as an open ending on purpose. Who will welcome the younger brother home? Who will decide the younger brother isn't worthy?

And what does this mean for the church? Are you part of a church that rejoices at the sight of the lost child? Or are you part of a church that condemns him?

I have to tell you ... I'm happy to say that my church wants the younger sibling back.

As for those who condemn my church and others for accepting the LGBT community ... have you considered that you might be the "older brudder?"

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