October 18, 2018
Originally published in Spirituality Jan/Feb 2018
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I’m so terribly angry at what you’ve done to me that I just cannot face you, and have to write this letter instead.
I think that if I was to speak to you face to face I’d just lose it altogether. You were always an impulsive person yourself, and I think I’ve inherited a good bit of that. If I talked to you openly about how disgusted with you I feel I think I might end up cursing you or insulting you in the foulest language I know.
You did something yesterday that was like a knife in my heart. It was quite simply the last straw and I don’t think I will ever forgive you.
I’ve always been obedient to you. I’ve always been around. I’ve always done my duty on the farm. I don’t remember ever going against your wishes. I suppose I’d have to say you’ve treated me fairly. I can’t say you’ve treated me generously, but then as your eldest son, I guess you felt that because I’d inherit the farm one day you had a right to expect me to work hard and not be looking for thanks and praise all the time.
Then yesterday my kid-brother comes back. You, Dad, I have to say, were quite simply barking mad to give him what he asked for all those months ago. You knew he was hot-heated, immature, self-opinionated and totally irresponsible.
He never listened to you, and he never benefited from the good example that I, as big brother, always tried to give him.
And yet you just handed over to him the means to indulge all his worst habits, and that was precisely because you were recklessly indulgent towards him, as you’ve always been.
I come back yesterday, after a hard day’s work, and I find there’s a party going on at home. He’s the centre of the celebrations and you are jumping up and down with geriatric joy. It was embarrassing to look at you. And then you said to me you wanted me to join in the fun! HALLO DAD!...please…for crying out loud! Can’t you see?? Are you off your trolley?
This letter is to try and make you see. I’ve lost all respect for you. I think I’ll go someplace where no-one will know that I am your elder son. Don’t be surprised if I’m not around from now on.
My dearest elder son,
I have read your letter, and while it saddens me I want to thank you for being so honest and for speaking your mind. You are my first-born and I have been so proud of you down the years. You’ve done back-breaking work on this farm of ours, and I am so pleased it will all be yours one day. You have been so steady, so reliable, so much like your beloved late mother in many solid qualities. And now I can see from your letter that you have inherited her blunt outspokenness as well! I am truly grateful to you for that.
One day soon, my boy, you too are going to have a son. And just maybe, just possibly, that son of yours will do something really bad, and do something you yourself have never done. I mean it’s possible that he will go badly astray. And part of it, strangely may be your fault.
But, my son, I believe you’ll have enough of a fatherly heart in you to love him when he is unlovable, to trust him when he is not always trustworthy, and even forgive him when he does something unforgiveable. You will worry about him when he’s sowing his wild oats, you’ll think about him even more than your other children who have not kicked over the traces nearly as much as he has. You have given me no trouble. But he sure has!
So, if all this happens, maybe you too will walk up and down on the veranda in the cool of the evening, and often look down your dusty farm road, hoping against hope you might see him a long way off. And if he comes; well, you just won’t be able to hold yourself back.
Thank you for always being here and for your painful honesty.
I remain always
Your loving Dad
He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out and began to urge him to come in; but he retorted to his father, “All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property—he and his loose women -- you kill the calf we had been fattening.” ‘The father said,”My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.” – St Luke 15:28-32
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