The Prodigal Father

A lot of people have been sharing articles by Matt Walsh lately and I totally understand why. After reading a few of his blog entries, I find myself, more often than not, agreeing with him. I even subscribe to his blog so he shows up in my Feedly blog reader.

However, I have always felt a little uneasy when I read his blog and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until recently. Walsh’s writing taps into that part of myself that I try to tamp down because it is hyper critical, scathing, and lacking in grace. This not a knock against Walsh. I think many of his entries are truthful and true and at any rate, I don’t think he is a cruel or graceless person. In fact, I think he is like many of us, frustrated with “the way things are,” intelligent, a good writer, and generally, a good person. (Not that it really matters what I think of him anyway.) Really, it is likely just me and my own personal hang ups.

You see, Walsh’s writing reminds me of the elder son from the parable, The Prodigal Son.

My college Christian Fellowship was obsessed with this parable. We heard months worth of talks on the parable. Did numerous Bible studies on it. We even referred to it by a way cooler name: The Prodigal Father. Most of it was cribbed from The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen.

Here’s the tl;dr version: A rich man had two sons. One day the younger son goes to his father, and says, “Hey, let’s pretend you’re dead and you can give me my inheritance now, ok?” The father agrees and the younger son goes whoring it up and spends all his money. He finds himself eating from a pig trough and realizes that even the servants in his father’s house eat better than that so he decides to go home and beg to be a servant.

When he nears his home, his father sees him from a great distance and comes running out, rolling out the red carpet, rejoicing that his son has returned to him. The man throws a huge party and kills a fatted calf.

The older son, who had stayed behind is super pissed off when he hears of his brother’s return (especially when he finds out about the party). He goes off and sulks and when his father chases him down and asks him why, he answers:

“Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

– Luke 15:29-32 NIV

Look, I’m not saying Walsh is the elder son in real life. I have no idea! I don’t know the guy and really, his spiritual state is between himself and God. All I know is that Walsh’s writing pushes a button inside of me and that button says, “Elder Son Alert!”

It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but there it is. I’m a lot mellower about it now, but I’m still a stickler to the rules at heart. I’m a douche bag extraordinaire when it comes to finding fault with EVERYTHING and I get pissed when I think people are getting away with stuff. (Of course, I conveniently forget when I get a free pass, but details, details, people!)

Anyhow, not sure what my point with this post is, but ultimately, I don’t want to be either son. I want to be like the father, who is prodigal (ie: wastefully extravagant) to both his ungrateful children. The father lavishes love and resources on both his kids even though the older son seems to think his father is a horrible slave master and the younger son only comes home because he is hungry. I can only hope to love my own children this way – let alone random people.

I leave you with some shameless self promotion. Back when I was a senior at UCLA, I wrote a song from the elder son’s point of view and my awesome and talented composer friend, Chris Wong, made it sound much better. If you don’t want to sit through the video for the lyrics, I’ve posted them at the end.

I spent too many hours figuring out how to make a lyrics video for YouTube last night so I am not only proud of this song but of the video. I’m surprised I could even make it happen considering it takes me at least ten times longer to learn anything new nowadays – let alone succeed at it. But hey, old dog and new tricks.

Also, this recording is more than fourteen years old! WHAT?!

The Elder Song

Oh, God
What has become of my system?
What has become of my life?
It has fallen down.

Oh, God
What will become of my faith?
What will become of me now?
I am down.

Free falling
down
down
down

Oh, God
How could you allow this to happen?
How could you stand by and watch
Me break down?

Why did you do this?
Why have you made me fall?
Was I not faithful?
Did I not follow your call?

Why won’t you give me?
Why won’t you bless me?
What a miserly God

Did I slave for you?
Did I slave for you?
All these years?

Oh, my God
Where have I pushed you away to?
When did I leave home behind?
I was slaving away.

Oh, God
I see you embracing my brother
I hear you choke on his name
and I wonder

Would you do the same for me?
Would you do the same for me?

– Mandarin Mama

The Best Advice Cosmo Ever Gave Me

Like many young women, I used to have a Cosmopolitan magazine subscription. Why, I’m no longer sure since it’s really just the same magazine every single month with a different half-naked woman on the cover. However, between the sex advice that was always the same and the make-up tips for white women (with an occasional bone thrown at black women), there was always one or two “hard-hitting” journalistic attempts. Granted, the article that changed my life was not one of those pieces, but whatever.

I don’t remember the name of the article and am too lazy to use my Google-Fu and find it. However, here’s the gist: When you find yourself being jealous over someone, stop and figure out why. If it is something that you, too, can achieve, then stop being jealous. Be happy for that person. And then GO AFTER WHAT YOU WANT. Perhaps even ask that person for help or advice. But don’t just dwell in your jealousy. DO SOMETHING.

The idea was transforming.

I must admit. I never thought I was a jealous person, but I realized that I actually was. I just disguised it by being petty or mean-spirited and tearing down people who went after the things they wanted.

In high school, I was jealous of cheerleaders and dancers and folks in student government. I belittled them to make myself feel better, but really, what good did that do? I still wanted to be them – but I was too scared to try for any of these things. I told myself that it was a waste of time and not practical, but honestly, I was just afraid of trying and then failing.

Would my life have been better if I had been a cheerleader or a dancer or a student leader? Who knows? But how sad that I wasted four years of my youth being bitter and snide, always yearning from the sidelines? How much better would it have been for me to take a beginner’s dance class? Or run for student government? I could have failed miserably, but at least I would’ve tried. After all, to quote a sales line, “If you don’t ask (in this case, try), the answer is always, ‘No.'”

At UCLA, I was jealous of those in the arts and wanted desperately to be in plays and musicals and what not but was ALWAYS too afraid to audition. That way, I could stay in my comfort zone. I always had a good excuse: being involved with InterVarsity (a campus Christian group) or “studying” or pursuing romantic relationships. Worthy pursuits, but again, so sad.

After reading that article from Cosmo, I realized what an idiot I had been. Not to mention, coward! (Although, that’s no surprise, right?)

So I stopped. It was much easier than I thought it would be.

Did I have a stab of envy every time I saw a particular person in their awesome clothes and accessories? Well, what was to stop me from having a better sense of personal style? NOTHING. (After all, wasn’t that what my subscription to Cosmo was for?)

If I saw someone succeed at writing – I no longer stewed in envy or came up with excuses as to why I wasn’t succeeding. If I wanted to write – then I should write. If writing wasn’t worth the sacrifice, then I should stop whining and not worry about it. (I stopped whining.)

If I read my friend’s wife’s blog and saw all their fun pictures, crafts, outings and trips around the Bay Area with their beautiful children, instead of being envious or making remarks such as, “Well, they’re rich so they can do these things!” or other such nonsense, I copied her ideas. Blatantly stole the suggestions. I mean, I live in the Bay Area! I can go visit the Sequoias, or go to Tilden Park and ride steam trains! Who is stopping me from taking my kids to Dolores Park in SF? Or the beach? Or doing silly crafts at home? ONLY ME! And plus, I am rich! Sounds crass to say so, BUT IT’S TRUE.

I tried to turn my potential jealousy into a springboard for action and to turn my life into the life I wanted – or at least, thought I wanted. If after finding out what it takes to “get” something, I didn’t think it was worth it, at least I looked into it and discarded the option vs. always pining after what seemed to be the “greener” grass.

It was incredibly freeing.

Also, I got a better wardrobe, shoes, and accessories.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, the jealousies concerned a simple fix such as shopping. Other times, it required sacrifice such as choosing sleep over TV shows or reading because I was always yelling at my kids due to exhaustion. (If you only talk to little children all day, giving those things up IS a sacrifice!)

Of course, sometimes, it is a little bit more difficult than merely copying someone. Thus far, most of the things I covet are easily resolved. But even if you are jealous of someone who has great relationships or personal skills, that can be learned! (It may take awhile and a lot of behavioral changes, but it is totally possible.) Or if you want to go back to school but it costs a lot, start figuring out and planning how you can afford it. Doing something is usually better than doing nothing.

My point is, stop wasting time on jealousy. If a person has or does something you’re envious of, find out how they do it. Copy them! Who cares? If you end up liking it, great! You now have what you wanted. You are now an object of envy. If you find out you hate it or it isn’t worth it to you, also great! How stupid to covet something you don’t even want? And how amazing is it to live a life where you are happy with your lot?

In closing, I wish to quote the wise Selena Gomez. “If you want it, come and get it!”

Happy hunting!

Fakebooking

In the past few months, I’ve seen several articles on The Huffington Post (which, let’s face it, has some quality control issues and is supremely left-leaning, but for the most part, I like their stuff) about the problem of “Fakebooking,” or presenting your life on Facebook in such a way as not to reflect reality and make other people feel bad.

The other day, a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook titled, We Need to Quit Telling Lies on Facebook, (she’s not the author of the piece) and I had enough. When I complained to Hapa Papa about the topic, he replied, “Stop. This is just too stupid. I don’t want to hear any more. People are idiots.”

Now, of course, please don’t think that I think you’re an idiot if you happen to fall prey to “Fakebooking” and its assorted ailments of envy, coveting, and feeling bad about yourself. (I may privately think you’re an idiot for other reasons, but not this reason.) In general, I think that’s symptomatic of being human and just seeing the surface of what other people want to project. I totally understand. Furthermore, I fall into this occasionally as well. Who hasn’t after seeing a particularly awesome picture of scrumptious food? Or happy, clean children? Or a beautiful beach view?

But seriously? Multiple articles on the subject? It’s a new thing now? How fucking stupid.

Who really looks at someone’s Facebook statuses and thinks that is an accurate depiction of a person’s life? I mean, the site is called Facebook. Like, saving face or putting on your face, or whatever. It’s not called Realitybook. And who wants to read Realitybook anyway? I have enough of my own reality, thank you very much. Please let me escape into the allegedly happy lives of my friends and acquaintances.

If you want to have actual, real, deep friendships, Facebook is not the place for it. It can be the place for it, (and many of my friends on FB are Real and honest and awesome and I love them the more for it) but COME ON. If that is what you want, GO MEET YOUR FRIEND IN REAL LIFE. You know, at a restaurant or bar or house or cafe or wherever people who don’t have to constantly tow around small children congregate and enjoy scintillating, interruption-free conversation. Facebook is NOT that venue so get the fuck over it.

Too harsh?