I have never understood the parable of the Prodigal Son with as much clarity as I see it now. Although most Christians identify with the son who leaves to the world and returns years later to his father, I have always associated with the older son and I don’t know why. Something in me caused me to relate to his feelings of bitterness, his overcoming of neglect and his need for acceptance.

I have never really asked my “father” for my inheritance and gone to dabble and indulge in the things of this world. Rather, I feel I have been more faithful, consistent, diligent and committed regarding my spiritual walk. Much like the older son in this parable. He was the first on the fields each morning and the last to go home. He worked incredibly hard and toiled with much labor. But from his reactions towards his prodigal brother when he returned, we can assume many of his motivations for his devotion was for acceptance. He worked hard and was a “doer” largely to gain acceptance. It now makes sense why I relate to his situation.

Two and a half years ago I suffered a complete breakdown regarding burnout. I was overworked, the passion was squeezed out of me and I was racked with an identity crisis because my acceptance and validation was wrapped in my “elevator speech” – I am a Jamie Woller, I work at ____ and am known for my success of ______. You know how the spiel goes everytime you meet a possible networking prospector. However, I emerged from this with a very Godly perspective that I am not accepted for my accomplishments, awards, successes or anything – I am accepted because God created me, loves me and is my biggest fan, just for who I am.

What I gained from this experience though was true peace. For the last 2 years I have experienced vast amounts of peace in my life. It is only just recently where I am feeling the ugly head of constantly “doing” emerging in my life. Peace is slowly departing me as exhaustion sets in. Am I trying to find acceptance again? Am I looking to others to embrace me, accept me and validate me because of all that I do? God feels distant, therefore I turn to others to get what I am used to finding in him – my strength of who I am. Oh, the errors of being human which we do over and over again. My ally now is my learning from my past experience. I know that I must surrender to God all that I am doing and find time to rest in him. It is essential if I am to survive.
Ultimately, I still resonate more with the older son. However, I now see him also as a prodigal son. Who the father sees him to be is not who is really is. He is shallow, without passion and lifeless. He works all day, and is everything of a “doer”. Yet until he realizes that his father loves him just for who he is, regardless, then he will not ever experience that true love. He is a prodigal from his fathers true love.

I heed his story and long to once again deeply embrace the love of the father – for accepting me just as I am. I am worn, tired and in deep need of his divinity. But even in that place I am accepted. Although I have not gone and sinned in tangible, measurable ways – I have sinned by finding my identity, acceptance and love in things other than God. I am a prodigal son, looking for the loving embrace of my heavenly father to fill these tired bones with the refreshing passion of life. I am the prodigal son who never left.