The Prodigal Dad.
Blake and I have been watching the latest season of Scandal* on Netflix nearly every night for the past two weeks after we put the girls to bed. There is a character, Rowan—a man in his sixties who is one of the most conniving, vicious characters out there. It’s kind of bizarre, really, because he’ll reveal this intense drive to make things happen, and I find myself admiring him in a way– & then I’ll see what he does with it all and be horrified. When we watched a particular episode last week largely involving him, a thought entered my mind, but I wouldn’t entertain it, not daring to let it be a possible reality.
Fast-forward a couple of days, and we find ourselves digging into the parable, “The Prodigal Son” at our church. As we sat there, I couldn’t get that thought from Scandal out of my head that had duct taped itself to my brain because it actually connected to this exact parable. (That’s right. You can learn about Jesus in all sorts of places, including a not-always-appropriate TV show.)
In the episode, Rowan, who carries the title Command, trains “sons,” meaning he seeks out young, adult men who are strong and smart but who also have a broken past and who are completely alone. To make him his, he detects his darkest weakness, his deepest secrets, and then uses them to break him, making him feel the opposite of smart and strong. But then Command is there. He looks his “son” in the eye and tells him he will never hurt him like he’s been hurt in the past and he wants him to be part of his family. The “son” now feels safe and will do anything and everything to remain loyal to Command. What he doesn’t see in the beginning is Command will only use him—to gain power and further delight in the world’s corruption. You never question, doubt, or offer opinions to Command. He’d rather you be dead than not devoted to him. He was there for you and so now you owe him everything, and although you won’t be allowed a soul, he allows you to actually be someone.
As these scenes played the first time and then re-played in my mind, I just stopped. I lost focus.
People think God is like Rowan, don’t they? They think he’s just another Command. There are people who put God in this box, thinking He’s just out to make you His so He can control you for His own power.
This is devastating.
Our world sees far too many examples of what it means to be a father by men like Rowan. Our world sees far too few examples of what it means to be a father by men like the father in “The Prodigal Son.”
Here is this man, this leader, this father, who wants his sons to be his family solely for the relationship of father and son. He longs to teach them and show them how to build a life, but all he hopes for is returned love. And he fights for this. When a son runs away, mistreating and even shaming the father, the father isn’t filled with disgust nor does he give up on his son.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
When the son returns, knowing his place is with his father, the father runs to him. He doesn’t even wait for the son to make it all the way back. He doesn’t want an apology. The father runs. He runs towards his son and kisses away his shame.
This is what it means to be a father. This is what it means to reflect the true Father, our God.
A father delights in his children. A father protects his children. A father is a servant to his children. A father wants a relationship with his children so they know what Love is and so they can find protections from what Love is not.
If this isn’t how you see God, you’ve been given the wrong description. It hurts. It’s not an easy fix. The good news, though, is that the True Father, our God, is infinitely stronger than any earthly man. He cannot be shaken. He will never fade. He will never want you less or stop pursuing you. He wants you because He loves you. He loves you because He created you. He created you because He has purpose for you, and that purpose will only be truly fulfilled when the love of the Father is in your heart. Love– His Love– is what will inevitably fuel your soul. Your soul will be a beautiful blaze of light. Shine on.
*Scandal is an intense television show meant only for adult viewing and even then should be viewed with discernment.