And, like something that feels threatened and angered I do the first thing that comes to my mind. I start spewing venom. I start banging on the locked door like all of the world's problems will be solved if I can just break the door from its hinges or in any way shape or form get him to move faster. "Open the dang door!! You are the most selfish person I have ever met in my entire life! Who do you think you are? Get out of the shower!! You do not have time to shower! Today is not about you!! We are already late and we have to leave! Dad said we had to be out in the car! You think of no one but yourself! You care about no one but yourself! We all know you're the fricking prodigal son, you sure do get everything you want!! That's your problem!! Now GET OUT!!!" I scream so hard my throat feels raw. I scream and I scream and I am right where I was before I ever even started screaming, behind a closed and locked door, accomplishing absolutely nothing. And do you know what happens with those words that left my mouth like venom? They burn. They burned coming out and they burn afterwards. They burn a hole right through you. They are words that never leave you.
There is no vindication in them. There is no answer. There is only weakness and the hurt that you felt and then placed on someone else. And maybe in that moment, when all my brother wanted was 5 minutes in the shower even though he had woken up late, he felt like he would use the prodigal son card to get what he felt he deserved. But when you feel like you have the authority to call yourself that it's also because you know how far you had fallen. How lost you had been. And instead of looking behind the condescending smile and the air of entitlement that I was "so sure" he was throwing in my face, I played into the older brother role yet again. And in that moment I was just as lost as I had always assumed he was. I was so far past any realm of understanding because I let my own brokenness cloud what was going on. I fell into my human nature and made my bitterness, my brokenness, more important than his struggle. And I will always carry that with me. You see, I vowed after that trip to NEVER again go on a family trip with John Wayne. Or at least to never be made to stay in the same hotel room with him. And I never did. I will never have the chance to. Because a year after that trip, he would never get the chance to take another one.
I had prepared myself for this week's sermon. I had been given fair warning that this sermon was going to be about the prodigal son. I thought that I had come to terms with the demons that I faced that left me a heap of a mess after each previous sermon preached on this same story. I was wrong. Because again, from word one, I was waterworks. And do you know the moment that I truly broke open? It was these 4 simple words, "Jesus loves older brothers." That was all it took. I thought I had come to terms with it, with my sin and brokenness and the bitterness that played so strongly on my heart. I had asked God to forgive me. Thank God I had the opportunity to ask John Wayne to forgive me. But I realized, in that moment, that I had never allowed myself to forgive me. I never forgave that part of myself that held so strongly to those moments where everything in me broke.
I held onto those words, to those moments of broken anger and others like them, like some badge of shame against myself, so that I would remember the feelings that came after them. I never really let them go. I let them play on repeat and fester in my mind and in my heart and all that did was lead to more broken and bitter feelings. This time at myself for the role I often played in our story. I feel grateful for the times where I could have a conscious discussion with my brother. I am grateful that not long before he died, we had been talking about trying to give the whole "family trip" another shot. And yet, I still could not surrender the hardness I had built against myself and his addiction to allow for me to drop my "older brother" badge altogether. I held onto it, unwilling to surrender it to God. Unwilling to let Him take it and make that part of my heart His. It seemed too ugly somehow. Too broken. But nothing is too broken for God.
"Jesus loves older brothers."
If you would like to listen to the sermon and the rest of the series (preached by Zach Van Dyke) you can click through the picture at the top of the post or find it here.