There once was a father with sons he loved dear.
He provided and cared for them year after year.
The younger was wild, the older more tame,
But the father loved equally, both sons the same.
The younger son chafed at the rule of his father.
Saying, "Living like this is too much of a bother.
It's my life to live, I don't care what they say.
I know I'll be happier going my way."
So, he told his father to give him his due,
To take their inheritance and split it in two.
"I'll take what is mine," he said, "if you don't mind,
And go out in the world my fortune to find."
The father was grieved by the choice of his son,
But knew he'd not listen 'till his folly was done.
So, with a heart that was broken and a tear in his eye,
He sadly bid his youngest goodbye.
Off the son traveled to a strange distant land
Where they spoke a strange language, he did not understand.
With strange clothes on their bodies and strange things on their face,
You might just say it was a very strange place.
There he turned from what's right and pursued what was wrong.
Spending his time with wine, women, and song.
He had lots of friends to help his time to fill;
That is, just as long as he paid for the bill.
But there came to that land a terrible drought,
And along with his money, his friends all ran out.
As for living his dream, well he sure wasn't richer.
He lost his sandals, his robe, and his, well you get the picture.
But still he refused to turn homeward bound,
Saying, "I'll stand on my feet. I'll stick to my ground.
I'll find me a job. It will all turn out fine."
But his job it turned out, was to live with the swine.
He had nothing to eat but an old apple peel,
And some food from the pigs that he happened to steal.
Finally, he said, "I must be out of my head,
To have to steal from a pig just so I can be fed."
"I've been a fool; I now see it so clear.
I need to be getting myself out of here.
Back home with father I had bread, cheese and meat;
Even the servants had plenty to eat."
I'll say to my father, "Pardon please what I've done.
I'm no longer worthy to be called your son.
Your servant I'll be if you'll take me back in."
With these thoughts in his head, he turned homeward again.
As he started on home, he couldn't but wonder,
How his father would respond to his rebellious blunder.
Would he welcome him back, or send him off with a curse?
For the son looked a mess and smelled even worse.
Now all this time the father'd been waiting,
His son's return, anticipating.
So, when he looked down the road, recognizing his boy,
He jumped to his feet with a shout of pure joy.
He shot down the road like an arrow from a bow,
Running as fast as his old feet could go.
As the father drew near, the son started his plea,
"I'm an unworthy son, it's a slave I should be."
But the father care not of his son's disgrace.
He didn't notice the smell or the dirt on his face.
He just grabbed up his son in a huge warm embrace,
And showered on him love and a whole lot of grace.
He shouted, "Bring my son a robe and for his finger a ring,
Food for a feast; I say quickly now bring.
We'll throw us a party, a wonderful thing.
Today, we celebrate! Tonight, we sing!"
Coming later from work, the older son drew near.
Then paused in wonder as music reached his ear.
"He asked, "What can this mean?" to someone or the other.
"It's a party!" they replied, "for the return of your brother."
"I'll not go," said he, "to welcome that cad,
Who ran off like a fool squandering all that he had."
He stomped his foot saying, "I'm not going in there.
And if that hurts his feelings, I really don't care."
When the father was told, he went to the older son,
And pleaded with him to come join the fun.
"Not I," said the son, with a scowl on his face.
"To throw him a party is a rotten disgrace."
"For years I have worked from morning till night.
I've followed your rules to do what is right.
But for me and my friends no party was thrown,
No fattened calf for a feast, not even a bone."
The father said, "Son, please don't be this way.
You know all that I have you'll share in someday.
My love for you has ever been true.
It will always be there, whatever you do."
"It's true that your brother was dead in his sin.
But he's turned back to us. He's alive once again.
He's looked at his life and he's made a new choice.
It's not time to condemn; it's time to rejoice."
Now, in Jesus' story, we see both sons are flawed.
But the point of the tale is the compassion of God.
It's not who's right or who's wrong that Jesus speaks of,
But the power of repentance and the Father's great love.
If we turn from the Father and sin then embrace,
We'll likely wind up in a very dark place.
But even when lost, we can turn to His face,
And receive from Him love, mercy, and grace.
This poem was a finalist in the December 2021 poetry contest