Love Changes Everything And Everything Changes Love
Maybe inspired by Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son, I find myself thinking about another character in the story. In many reproductions of this painting, only five figures are visible—the father embracing the younger son as the elder stands by, along with two servants. But look closely at the upper-left corner. I think the shaded figure, clearly female, is the mother standing in the shadows, helpless to do more than she already has to effect this reconciliation.
And don’t think she hasn’t done something. Who prays constantly for her younger son, anxious about his welfare every minute he’s away? Who listens sympathetically to her husband as he rants about this wasteful boy, yet persuades him to go out to meet him just one more time? Who pleads with her firstborn son to love his younger brother, maybe even sneaking him his own small goat? Yes, I know this woman. I know the demands of hands-off love as my sons have become men.
God is like the prodigal son’s father, granting us our inheritance of human dignity and freedom even when we’re likely to waste these gifts. And like that father, God is always ready to embrace us.
God is also like the mother in the shadows, pained at the way her children treat one another, patiently waiting for them to learn the hard lessons, longing just to feed them and hold them and welcome them into her house.
Paige Byrne Shortal writes from her home in rural Missouri. Contact her and read her weekly meditation at www.paigebyrneshortal.com.