I am the youngest of three children. And yes, I exhibit a lot of the characteristics of this particular birth order station in the family. I want to differentiate myself from others, I sometimes battle feelings of being inadequate and small, and I can be outgoing and lots of fun when I have had a few cappuccinos.
This morning I read the story of the father and his two sons in Luke 15. The youngest one demanded his inheritance early (a typical desire not to be overlooked or treated unfairly) and went out to do his own thing (stop comparing me to my older sibling!). But that's where the similarities to the baby of the family end for me. You see, I have never run off and done something really stupid, causing lots of people to worry about me. For the most part, you can find me faithfully going about the necessary business of life, so dependable that it's almost boring.
I tend to lose patience with people who mess up and need lots of hand-holding to get back on track. I totally understand the resentment over a lavish party thrown in honour of a dishonourable son just because he eventually got one thing right. Inevitably, there is more rejoicing over the troublesome child who finally puts in an effort and gets a passing grade than over the child who quietly studies every day and pulls off straight A's. And this seems unfair to me. But then, I am assuming that the ultimate Father runs his universe on a system of merit and reward instead of mercy and grace.
Deep down inside I know that it is horrible not to be able to wholeheartedly celebrate when good things happen to not-so-deserving people, but it doesn't make it any easier. Sometimes it just seems to pay to be a little bit bad. Is faithfulness really its own and only reward? Oh please, there has to be more to it than that.
Perhaps it can be likened to the difference between winning the lottery and putting a little into a savings account every day. Though both parties might end up with virtually the same amount of money, one of them knew where they were headed all the time and plodded down a steady and sure course. The other lived through a roller-coaster experience: many lean and desperate days interspersed with a few reckless highs which were always not quite high enough to keep the momentum going. What younger brother would not be grateful to land safely after the stress of that? And what older brother would not be thankful to have made good choices early on and stuck to them?
There were two brothers in the family. I think the point of the story is not to compare them or evaluate which one was doing what wrong, but to see that this is the story of family, a family held together by a generous and faithful father. They belonged together. Through thick and thin, in spite of betrayal and bitterness, they were a family. Given the choice, I do believe I would rather have small intimate dinners with my father every day rather than necessitate an occasion for a grand homecoming after a painful and extended absence. And that is indeed the choice I have made.
This is some green stuff and some wild berries on the Dominion Hill property in New Brunswick.