He stayed in his room for the whole day.
He didn’t have to! Good grief, of course not. He could have walked up the stairs at any point, looked at his dad and apologized for disobeying, then sat right down at the table.
There was a meal set for him. It was one of his favorites, piled up on his plate at his place at the table.
There were warm arms waiting to scoop him up and kiss his nose and talk to him about his ideas and thoughts and dreams.
There was family. Right upstairs.
But he sat in his bed for the whole long day.
It was late evening before he came slowly up. He looked Daddy right in the eye. “I’m sorry for disobeying and not doing my chores.” One simple sentence but it came out strangled and one could almost see the agony his pride was feeling.
Daddy nodded, then asked him why he chose to stay in his room all day. It came out in a rush. “Because I was mad. I didn’t think it was fair I had to clean the whole house all by myself.”
The room fell quiet. I looked at him and his eyes met mine briefly. “What did your sister do today?” I asked.
“She cleaned the laundry room and both bathrooms.”
I nodded. “And where was I?”
“Out doing Daddy’s work in the barn.”
I nodded again. “And Daddy?”
“He can’t do a lot because of the accident, so he’s been making phone calls and trying to sell some stuff to make us money.”
I nodded a third time. “I see. And who told you that you had to clean the whole house all by yourself?”
He stilled and it was like a lightbulb went on in his head. “Nobody,” he whispered. “Nobody told me that at all. I just lied right to myself because I didn’t want to do any work. Daddy said I needed to help clean the house for you because you have to work so much in the barn and I didn’t want to so I just made up a lie so I could be mad.”
It was my husband who put into words for us all, bluntly, as he usually does. “Sometimes you lie to yourself and decide you’re slave. You do what you have to with a self-pitying attitude. Poor me, poor me, I have to do all the work and I get nothing from it at all. Poor me.
“Other times you listen to truth and you know you’re a son. You are working because you are family and that’s what family does. We all have our jobs, we all do our best, and we all live together and have relationship with each other.”
Our little boy nodded. “And I’m sorry, Dad, for acting like a slave instead of a son.”
“Actually,” my husband accurately pointed out, “you weren’t doing either.”
“No. You weren’t doing any work. You weren’t acting like a slave OR being the son you are. Instead, you were being a spoiled child. You weren’t just pitying yourself, you were telling yourself lies until you were so angry, you thought you deserved more than everyone else. So while the whole family worked, you sat down in your room mad. You were spoiled.”
It turned out that I was negligent on cleaning out the fridge through the holidays, so our little boy had the perfect job while contemplating this information: cleaning all the spoiled food out, taking a big sniff of each container as he worked.
His conclusion? Being spoiled stinks.
And I was convicted to the tips of my toes.
Because really, in the end, I’m not much different than my son.
Some days I live as a daughter of God, serving Him, accepting what He has given me with joy, because hello! I’m part of His family! And oh, what a gift! What a privilege! What grace and beauty and love!
And other days I mutter around like a slave. Pitying myself because I’m working and toiling without any personal gain. Poor me, I think, poor me. Life is hard for me and I never get the things I want. No babies. No financial success. No friends. And still I work on. Poor, poor me.
And other days I’m neither a slave nor a daughter, I’m just a spoiled child. Why me? I complain. Why do I have to do this work? Why am I always left all alone to do EVERYTHING?!
Then I stamp my foot and I sit mad at the world and at my Father.
Oh, dear ones, being spoiled STINKS.
May God forgive us for smelling up His church.
We are the sons and daughters of God.
Yes, we have to work. Yes, it can be hard. Yes, there are many times we don’t get what we want, when we want it.
But if we want to partake in the bread and wine, in communion and relationship with God, we have to do the work of being family.
This means repenting when we’ve done wrong, working even when we don’t want to, and following the instructions of our Father.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Not love the Lord your God as long as He’s doing things your way. Not love your neighbor as long as they are giving you want you want.
And when we do, we are living as sons and daughters. Not as spoiled children.
As we sat at the table together that evening, my son delighting in his big plate of lasagna and garlic bread with chocolate kisses for dessert, I couldn’t help but picture the table the Lord has continually filled for us.
The one where the Bread of Life and Living Water sit waiting for the Sons and Daughters of God to partake.
Every day it’s there, like manna.
We just have to do decide who we’re going to be.
Sons & Daughters. Slaves. Or Spoiled Children.