September 2, 2018

CHOOSING RELATIONSHIPS

BIBLE READING
Luke 15:11-32

REFLECTION

I hope you are not bored yet with me telling you stories about my son, Abinaya or Abia. If you are well, too bad because there are still plenty of stories to tell.

Let me tell you one more story. Last Monday, I was in the park along Rockingham beach with him. We were playing in the playground, throwing and chasing a ball.  But there was a storm coming and the sky was already dark. So when it was obvious that it was going to rain, I took him and ran to the car. But he refused to go back to the car and struggled every time I tried to put him in the car seat. He still wanted to play.

That was when I lost my temper and yelled at him. With an angry voice, I told him to sit down and be quiet. I think he knew that I was angry because he suddenly stopped struggling and sat nicely in the car seat.

That was probably the first time that I was really angry with him and I felt really bad afterwards. You see friends, we want to discipline our son, but I think we still have to strike the right balance. I mean, what’s the point of disciplining your child when you damage your relationship with him/her.

Before I got married, some people gave me free advice on how to have a happy and long-lasting marriage. One piece of advice that I remember is to always choose being happy rather than being right. You know, we all want to feel or think that we are right and the other person is wrong. It is nice to feel righteous and put the blame on other people. But always wanting to be right can put a strain on our relationships because no one likes to be blamed.

So, it is often necessary to choose our relationship rather than convincing the other person that he or she is wrong. This is true even when we are right. At the end of the day, being in a happy relationship is more important than being or feeling right.

I believe this principle is applicable in other relationships as well, including our relationship with our children. To be in an intimate and happy and growing relationship with them is more important than to be right.

We can see this principle in action in Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son. This parable is one of Jesus’ most popular parables. And the reason why it is so popular is because we can relate with the characters in the parable.

The family in the parable is just like any other family. This family is far from perfect, just like any family. Every family has its own struggles and challenges. Every family has its own personalities. Every family has its own quirkiness.

But, there is one fundamental thing that separates a functioning family from a non-functioning one. Is it the absence or presence of conflict? No. Is it the absence or presence of self-interest? No. Is it the absence or presence of personal agenda? No.

For me, the one thing that defines a functioning or non-functioning family is the absence or presence of love. And love often directs us to choose being in a relationship rather than being right.

We see this kind of love in the character of the father in Jesus’ parable this morning. There is no doubt that the younger son was at fault. He did not make one mistake; he made many. First, he approached his father and asked for his portion of the family’s inheritance. He may have been motivated by greed. But, by asking for the inheritance before its time, he treated his father as if he had already been dead.

He then left his father and brother behind to look after the farm themselves. In ancient time, all members of the family had to work in the family’s business. His leaving of the farm thus must have harmed the farm significantly.

The last one on his list of wrongdoings was squandering all the money that he had. He did not even invest it; he recklessly wasted it all.

So, the older brother was right. The younger son didn’t deserve to be welcomed back, let alone be treated like a prince. But the father did not even mention the heartbreaks that he had caused or the money that he had squandered. The father chose to wipe the slate clean. 

For him, having his son back was more important than having his money back. He did not follow the economic logic. He was following the logic of love. And this logic made him value his relationship with his son more than being in the right.

Every time Abia breaks something, I tell him that he can pay me later by buying me a house when I’m older. I like to tell him that I don’t mind a house next to the beach...

I like to tell my wife that our son is our investment for the future. But, I’m only joking. I think all parents know that children are investments with no return. We spend money to raise them so that one day they will be independent and leave us to pursue their dreams. Our reward is to be in a relationship with them...

Today is Father’s Day and it is the time to remember the sacrifice that fathers make to raise their families. We see that kind of sacrifice in the actions of the father in Jesus’ parable this morning. He is the reflection of what kind of father God is.

May we too become like our Father in heaven and here on earth. May we too learn to see other people not through economic lenses, but through the lenses of love. May we too learn to value our relationship more than we value being right. Only then can we truly become the children of our Father in heaven.

Amen.
Toby Keva