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Deconstruction and Filling the Gap

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And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.” And he divided his property between them. (Luke 15:12)

When I read that verse I think about the space between those two sentences. Dad give me my inheritance…dad gives inheritance. What happened in that gap? Think of all the ways in which the father could have responded.

For one, this request is deeply offensive. This is a rejection of the family. He’s walking away from all the family stood for, all that he had been taught. He is taking his Proverbs 6:20-21 necklace and throwing it in the weeds. Does the father bring out the guilt card in an attempt to get the son to fall into order?

It is also evident that this son is acting in foolishness. Does the father raise his voice and point out the ignorance of not only the son’s request but also his inevitable actions? Does the father sternly warn him of his coming demise—reminding him of all the Proverbs and Sirach 33 and what the elders would think of such a thing? Will he use his power and position as a father to keep the son?

Perhaps the father could be passive aggressive. “Fine, if this is what you want then this is what I’ll give you. But this is not going to go well for you and don’t come running back when you run out of money, because I won’t have any.” I suppose the father could also try to shame the younger son by comparing him to his well-behaved older brother. “Why can’t you be like your brother…”

The biblical text gives us nothing in which to fill that gap. Or does it? Can we not learn something from the father’s response to the son returning? He clearly loved his son. Would any of the above options fit the character that we see from this father? Clearly, not. The silence of that gap is intentional. The father took the risk of letting his son have his rumspringaa time of ‘running around’. And it seems he did in silence.

I believe the silence of that gap is what encouraged the son to return. Do prodigals return to an “I told you so” father? If they are won back by anger and control are they actually won back?

The Gap and Deconstruction

If you aren’t yet familiar with the term “deconstruction” you soon will be. I could try to define it philosophically and quote people like Derrida—but that’d be nerdy and you’d get just as lost as I do when trying to understand philosophers. Besides, the philosophical concept isn’t what people mean these days when they use the term. It’s basically that a whole generation, because of various scandals, abuses, and political wrangling have begun to question whether the faith they were taught is actually believed by those who taught it. How much of this thing we call “faith” is just excess and how much of it actually has to do with Jesus?

Many are trying to untangle a ton of knots and are doing it in the context of a ton of pain. It may not be entirely accurate to call them prodigals—because many aren’t leaving their father’s home in order to party in the far country. To be a bit more accurate many are exploring the far country because the father who taught them all about the faith didn’t seem to believe it himself. They are often leaving the far country on the search for Jesus. In the parable the father’s house is rightly positioned as the place of truth and love. It wouldn’t be accurate to slide evangelicalism neatly into that spot.

Using this parable may not be exactly a one-to-one correspondence, but I do believe there is much to learn. I think we can learn from the older brother as well as the father. Many of the responses I outlined earlier are typical of how someone might respond to a person asking for the inheritance and leaving the home of evangelicalism. And those responses, I would argue, have more in common with the older brother than they do the father. The father is the one we need to learn from in this parable. And I see two actions the father makes which can help us as we navigate this season of deconstruction.

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Mike Leake is husband to Nikki and father to Isaiah and Hannah. He is also the lead pastor at Calvary of Neosho, MO. Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and his writing home is http://mikeleake.net