Dearest Members of Bethlehem,
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:16
Prodigy: a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional abilities.
Prodigal: a child who leaves their parents and does things the parents do not approve of.
Has it ever struck you that the word prodigy and the prodigal are so closely related? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s worth considering for a moment, as I wonder how closely connected these two words, or types of people might actually be.
The first thing that I would like to note is that prodigies do not have it easy. For instance, I think many would concede that Beethoven was a prodigy, but some historians suggest that from the age of seven, he practiced around eight hours a day. Tiger Woods, perhaps a shoe-in for being a golf prodigy started at age four, it is alleged that he practiced around seven hours a day.
If you practiced the tuba for a mere five hours a day, for just three or four years, I would be willing to bet that you would be a pretty decent tuba player. Seriously, are these prodigies exceptionally gifted or uniquely focused? I know, the answer is likely a little of both.
How about those prodigals? The most famous prodigal, especially for we people the of faith is the one from the Gospel of Luke. He sought his inheritance, hit the road, made some poor decisions, and ended up impoverished and hungry.
So, seriously, is the prodigal an exceptionally bad person or uniquely distracted by the temptations swirling about him? We may never know for sure what Jesus had in mind as he crafted this character for his parable. Nonetheless, here is what I would like to suggest, within each of us there is a bit of a prodigy and a bit of a prodigal too. The more aware we are of that spiritual reality, the more we can seek to enhance our gifts and talents (practice as it were) and steer clear of the distractions and empty promises that can so easily get us off track.
It just so happens, there is a liturgical season approaching that offers us a unique opportunity to consider our gifts and discern how to best steward those gifts.
Blessings to you in this upcoming time of repentance and renewal; Lent is a truly beautiful time in which we are reminded that regardless of where we find ourselves on the prodigal - prodigy continuum, our Heavenly Father is always eager to receive us with open arms.
Question for reflection: How much does your own need for forgiveness shape your willingness to offer it?
Yours in Christ,
God of love, renew our understanding of repentance. When the time is right, help us to turn and find a new way that is more reflective of your hope for our lives and at the same time a blessing to the people around us. All this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.