This weekend’s Gospel reading was one of my all-time favorites. It was the story of the prodigal son… the one who thought he could do it all on his own… the one who said, “Hey pops, I’m thinking about doing my own thing for a while… so can you just fork over the money you were going to leave me when you’re dead and gone now so I don’t have to come back to collect it when you finally kick the bucket?” I mean that takes some serious balls to ask for your inheritance before your parent even thinks about croaking. And you know… I always looked at this story from the point of view of the prodigal son… because I obviously ask my parents all the time for my inheritance up front… you know, with how awful the economy is and all (okay… that was a lie… I’m not that terrible). I get it. I am a good prodigal daughter. I screw up all the time. I poorly judge situations ALL the time. Almost constantly. To the point where I wonder if God is ever sittin up there, long flowy white sleeves rippling around in the heavenly breeze, smacking his forehead and wondering what gene he forgot to install in me before I was born to prevent such stupid mistakes.
But have you ever considered the opposing viewpoint? That of the father? The one whose lousy no-good son had the gall to ask for his inheritance upfront… you know… because the economy was so crappy and all. The one who waited up every night hoping for his son to return. I mean it’s beautiful, really. Any normal person would probably hold a grudge and say “good riddance.” But this father never lost hope. He RAN to his son… with open arms. I bet he did it in slow motion, too, with some grand music playing in the background while the sun was setting over that grassy meadow.
But still. I don’t get it. Why didn’t he just stand there and wait for his son to approach him? Why didn’t he get that heart-sicky feeling we usually get when we see someone who has wronged us?
Then I had this thought. How many times have you ever lost a sock to the dryer? It’s a sad moment when you are done folding your clothes (while they’re still hot… it’s the only way to do it), and you matched up all your socks and balled them up and threw them in your laundry basket… only to find one with a missing mate. The sock that went rogue… forged its own path… decided feet were not for him any longer… decided that a life in the warm belly of the dryer would be infinitely better than just hangin out in the sock drawer all day until you need a place to stick your nasty sweaty phalanges.
But then, one laundry day in the future, after weeks, months, YEARS of that poor orange polka-dotted sock laying alone and helpless in its pathetic little corner of your sock drawer, you see it. It’s orange. Spotted. It’s lookin kinda sock-y. It’s laying there, magically, at the bottom of your pile of clean laundry. The prodigal sock. And if you’re anything like me… you probably let out a noise of some kind at this point (I’m a squeaker, myself). A Cheshire-cat grin illuminates your dull and aged face as you hold up the long-lost sock and victoriously cry out, “AT LAST! I found you!” You march up to that sock drawer, pull out that sad lonely other-half, and watch the drama unfold with a tearful reunion. The socks are cheering. The undies are jeering (but who can blame them, really, they got the short end of the stick anyway when it comes to clothing items). Finally. Everyone has a friend. Everyone gets stinky feet time. Everything is right with the world again.
That’s probably what God feels every time he finds one of us lost rogue socks at the bottom of the pile of flowy white robes in his dryer. Sheer joy. For I was once lost… but now, am found.