Headmaster Blog for June 28, 2013: The Return of the Prodigal

Someone has said, “Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional”. Isn’t that the truth? One of the most frequent warnings I gave to my children when they were at home was, “beware of children running around in adult bodies.”

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is really a story about three adults, the tragedy of which is that two of them continued to behave like children. In order for the younger son, the “prodigal,” to be given his inheritance, he would have had to be of age. The “elder son” was, of course, older. Both were adults and Jesus makes a point that there is more than one way an adult can behave like a child; reckless and wanton irresponsibility on the one hand, and callous and arrogant condescension on the other—with a whole range of options in between.

Rembrandt did several paintings of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the last of which is described by art historian Kenneth Clark as “a picture which those who have seen the original in Leningrad [St. Petersburg] may be forgiven for claiming as the greatest picture ever painted.” In one of the wisest books he ever wrote, Henri J. M. Nouwen gives an exposition of this parable of Jesus using the great painting by Rembrandt as a visual reference point. In this book Nouwen first identifies himself as the prodigal. Then, as he matured, he began to see more of the elder son in himself. What Nouwen finds troubling in this is the recognition that childish (whether as the younger son or as the elder) is the default mode for the sin nature, and childish is always the easy way out. Nouwen’s great conclusion in the book is that the parable is not intended to provide an easy reference point for people who refuse to grow up. We cannot continue to take comfort in saying, “I’m like the younger son,” or, “I’m like the elder.” The point is to become someone more than that, to become like the father. In other words, “grow up!” In his exposition of Christ-like love it was Paul who said, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Cor. 13:11). Later the same Apostle explained why we are placed together in the Church, the Body of His Son,

[so that] we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way [italics mine] into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:13-16).

What does this maturity look like? For starters, paying close attention to and heeding the teaching of Jesus and His Apostles (John 14:15); how we behave toward others (Matt 5-7); how we use our tongues (Matt. 15:1-20; Jas. 3:1-12); how we use our resources, etc. It’s all there in God’s Word.

Having said all this, there is that about a child that we should never leave (and too often do). Jesus said we must have the faith of a child to enter His Kingdom (cf. Mark 10:15). This child-like wonder that leads us to proper worship also leads us to other goodness (like enjoying fairy tales). After C.S. Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he received a scathing review in the London Times by a fellow Don who felt that it was beneath the dignity of a professor at Oxford University to write mere children’s stories. When Lewis was asked by the Times if he wanted to respond to the criticism he said “no,” but then changed his mind. Lewis’ response was a fitting parody of Paul’s words, “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childlikeness, and the desire to be very ‘grown up.’” Lewis’ point: our varied attempts to posture ourselves as “above all that” are really childish things.

It is always good to be child-like; when we lose our ability to stand in awe of our God and His creation then we have lost most of what makes life worth living. At the same time, it is never fitting for adults to behave as though they are children, especially when they are parents themselves trying to raise children; someone needs to “be the adult” here, and it might as well be the adult.

Families always function better when they are led by adults acting like adults acting like their Lord Jesus Christ. The foundation of a Godly seminal family led by this type of parent constitutes the very hope that our children have in this culture. When mature–and child-like–adults like this come together to educate their children, then hopes and dreams for a school called Summit begin to blossom and bear fruit. Let’s all “play on” to this end!

Heads-up for the coming week:

  • Report cards for the fourth quarter of the 2012-2013 school year have been sent electronically to all families. Please return a signed copy at your convenience to the school office. Thank you.
  • Please note that Tim and Val Orton will be on vacation from July 6 through July 13. If questions arise you may contact either Mark or Triona Anderson.
  • Fourth of July is coming up. Please refer to the recent newsletter that informs Summit families about how they can be involved in the festivities on Snoqualmie Ridge.
  • Summit families can order Scrip throughout the summer for rebates to tuition. Please contact Triona Anderson for details. This is an easy way to add bang to your tuition dollars.
  • Be on the lookout for periodic emails regarding upcoming park-dates for Summit families.
Headmaster Blog for June 28, 2013: The Return of the Prodigal