Identifying with the Older Brother AKA Secretly Mad at the Prodigal Son

Recently, Emily Freeman began talking about the possiblity of hosting a weekly disscussion of her book, Grace for the Good Girl,  on her blog: Chatting at the Sky. And God took the opportunity to remind me that I needed  to participate in this. I needed  to finish this book… to hear this truth… to let go of my good-girl anxieties and give Him control.

So for the next 6 Thursdays I’ll be linking up and posting my reactions to the discussion questions and the reading in General.

grace for the good girl by emily p. freeman


Today I’m looking at the story of the father with the Prodigal Son. If you are unfamilar with it, you can find it here.

This is a bible story I know very well; and one often referred to in stirring testimonies of reformed Christians who live lives so much more freely than I do. But that’s a whole ‘nother post. One where churches are stirred and celebrate the returning son after he leaves his wayward life.

Yet, in me, there’s a small voice deep inside that cries out and identifies with the older brother – the one who didn’t go astray. The one who stayed, who worked, who helped, who lived rightly. The good brother. I get angry alongside him and scream out “That’s not fair!” when the bad brother returns home and is given a big party.

I’m the good brother. And I’m right there on the outside of the party, refusing to the party enter because it’s not fair.

I never had a serious rebellion against God, my parents, or the church.

I don’t party, I stay at home most of the time. It’s a comfortable life. It’s good.

And I look at the prodigal and I judge him. And I think there’s no way I’m like him.

I’m a good girl.

So, like the older brother, I get mad at the rewards bestowed upon the prodigal.

But then I read Emily Freeman’s words and God nudges my heart.

 “That older son had a deep misunderstanding about his father’s acceptance of him. He worked hard to try to get something he already had…”

And then she spins the story. And I read words that I had not thought about before – about how had the prodigal son returned the same way he left: proud, entitled, immoral; he would NOT have gotten the reward. Instead, it was in his change, his coming back needy, repentant, and broken that led to the reward.

Now that’s something to think about….

That older brother, he chose to stay outside the party. He refused to in and celebrate his brother’s return. But really, he was refusing to celebrate his brothers change.

And he couldn’t see the change that he needed – the change that I need.

I need to take off the mask of self-righteousness; of judgemental “I wouldn’t do that” attitudes; of indifference.

I need to put those masks away and return to my Father needy, repentant, and broken.

Understanding that the good girl’s good works will not make her Father love her anymore. That it’s ok to not be ok. That broken, broken is good. It means I need God.

I need to go into the party. To celebrate the change in others instead of judging their past behavior – instead of comparing my past to theirs.

Everyone has their own path they must take, and we all are prodigal in our own way.

So, I’m extending my hand and inviting you in.

Let’s go into the party together. Let’s celebrate the change we all need.

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