The Prodigal Son started out as a man who had little time for reflection. Life was waiting for him, and he wanted to experience every bit of it as intensely as he could. But the result of his choice to forgo planning and thinking is that he ended up with nothing – no money and no friends. At this point, he could have chosen to ignore his shame and lose himself in the struggle to survive.
Jesus’ story does seem to imply that at first this is what he did, choosing to work as a laborer on a pig farm – some of the lowest work that people of his culture could do. But eventually he saw himself honestly, and made the decision to change. He took the first step in seeking forgiveness by confessing his fault, repenting (working to
change), and reaching out to his family without waiting for them to make the first move.
Notice that, when the older brother tried to reject his returned sibling, the father invited him to do similar work – to reflect on his own life, to change his attitudes and actions, and to make the first move to reconcile with his brother.
This is always how reconciliation works. When we wait for others to make the first move, or when we refuse to forgive unless the other person jumps through some hoop of our choosing, we will never truly find healing. But, when we are willing to acknowledge our own part in bringing reconciliation into being, and when we make the courageous choice to reach out first, then relationships can be healed and restored, and we can find life together. Who needs you to do this work today?
The practice of speaking forgiveness is harder than just saying the words. We easily come up with all sorts of justifications for harboring our grudges and hurts and withholding forgiveness. But the cost of unforgiveness is too high – for us and for our world. Today, try, in small ways, to practice speaking forgiveness over others – and yourself – as quickly and freely as you can.
As you have forgiven me, O God, so I choose to forgive others in your name.