Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Whether you see yourself as a religious person or not, it’s hard not to think about this father as a symbol for God. It’s directly implied in the parable Jesus told, and who are we to back off from a parallel Jesus makes?
So how could God be powerless? Or, playing devil’s advocate, God must be powerless not to intervene and fix all that’s wrong with the world he supposedly created and loves. Could God be a victim of a misguided humanity? Or perhaps he’s being a whiner if he ever grieves over human suffering because couldn’t he make it all better with a wave of his magic wand and some pixie dust?
When I consider the trivial and passing experience of watching one of my sons make a mistake in an athletic contest (for example, watching strike three or walking in a run!), I can approach a form of powerlessness. But let me take it further.
How about the feeling Brian experienced when he learned that his two sons have Fragile X syndrome and, barring a miracle, will not be able to carry on the kind of deep conversations with him that he does with his father? Or the reality of my close friend who recently watched his 38-year-old son die of colon cancer and leave behind three young sons and a beautiful grieving widow?
Maybe powerlessness is exactly what it feels like when a father continues to exert the power of his own love in the face of potential or real loss and great suffering. And if father is the metaphor of choice for God in this story, how does it feel to consider that an all-powerful father feels powerless in the face of your suffering? Especially when – as is the case in our story of two sons – you bring some of those dire consequences upon yourself. How much power does he actually have and how much has he given to us to wield?
You know what’s so great about storytelling? We can explore these questions and leave the answers, to quote our script, “for another time”. It’s just a song lyric.
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