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Prodigality has two meanings:
to fritter away your riches and to give generously of them.
The Father of the Prodigal Son actually exhibited prodigality that pours itself out to provide. The Son fulfills that generous impulse in both the abandoned (if impudent and imprudent) spending, and in the trust implicit in showing up at his door empty handed.
Emptying the Self
I want, in a sense, to show up at my heavenly Father’s door ‘empty-handed’. I hope to be purged of my pickiness, crochetiness, self-centered-ness, defensiveness and pusillanimity, among other things. These are all problematic for anyone, but are especially nasty in old people. We don’t suddenly acquire the qualities, but they show up more in old-age ‘relief’. I want to let go of all that I carry, all that I’m attached to, all that impedes my opening to receive Him.
Empty Money, Impotent Money
The Prodigal and his older brother both had lessons to learn. One refused to own the greatness of his Father’s house and move its riches generously into celebration and licit enjoyment. The other abstracted money from its context in home, community, and responsibility, to ‘move’ it impotently. Whether merely spilled, or merely saved, money (as token of the Father’s character and intentions) is useless.
Two Sons, Two Lessons
The word ‘prodigal’ came up in a writing group recently – focus for an off-the-cuff 5-minute writing flow exercise. Here’s my take:
He gave it all away, yes…squandered it, maybe…lost it, no – because in the waste was the wielding of what was his. In the prodigality was the essence of the Father’s generosity. In the life with the poor and lowly was the movement of the Father’s heart: out, through his son, beyond the bounds of place and property, his yearning, his watchfulness, his hope filing the newly enlarged space between the sonship of pure love and the sonship of pure law; of begetting and begging; of justice and mercy. In that space between the Father who gave all and the son who spent all was a world of hurt and need, now reunited in one embrace to Comfort and Fulfillment!
Oh, long-suffering son of the house, how the Father longs for you to know the joy of prodigality!