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Reform Magazine | July 28, 2017

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Editorial: Prodigal son, the remix

steve_tomkinsHere’s a story for Father’s Day. There was a son. Let’s call him the prodigal son. And there was a father. Let’s call him the father.

Growing up was a miserable experience for the prodigal son. He didn’t have his older brother’s skill with tools or head for figures. He was clumsy and got words wrong. The father was always laughing at him in front of the servants and showing off his mistakes to his friends, and in private knew the exact words to make the boy feel smaller than ever. And that was when he was sober.

When the boy said: “I can’t wait for you to die; give me my inheritance now,” he shocked himself with his willingness to break every rule in the book – but hadn’t his father repeatedly said: “You’ll get nothing in this life, but what I leave you”? There seemed a real justice to what he was doing, in his deep gnawing anger.

Yes, he frittered away the money and ended up feeding pigs, but the pigsty was not the first time his thoughts turned back to his father, not by a long shot. In the bars and betting shops and brothels, sometimes he was haunted by the father’s disapproval, sometimes driven by a voice that said: “This’ll show him.” And yet as he spent up the father’s money, it never seemed to buy him the freedom and new life he craved.

It tells you something about his memories of home that only when he was starving in a field of pigs, coveting their slop, did going back finally seem like a good idea. The humiliation and recriminations would be better than this – but only just.

So he prepared the necessary grovelling apology for his proud father and headed home. And how staggered he was when, before he could even start his speech, the father silenced him with a tearful kiss. In this moment their world took a turn for the better. Maybe there were hurts and failings on both sides, and lessons to be learned, and breaches to be mended. But, for that moment, nothing in the world mattered – certainly not who was wrong and who right – except that, that which was lost was found.

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This article was published in the June 2016 edition of  Reform.

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