Thursday, 16 May 2013


A reflection inspired by a story Jesus told about a father and his sons (Luke 15:11-32), informed by Tim Keller's 'The Prodigal God', and encouraged by Malcolm Gordon's song 'Won't You Come Home', written from the perspective of a younger sister in the household. 

(NB: If you want to read this, you have to read it out loud to yourself.


Brother, you’ve been gone too long.
you packed your bags months ago
but you’d left long before
you walked out that door.
You made your escape in your imagination
and only your shadow remained in our midst.

What were you waiting for?
You could have cut the cords
quickly and cleanly.
you pulled at unravelling threads.
Now our lives are frayed
split and separated.

And you asked him to do it,
to split the inheritance,
to separate the land and sell it off
so you could have your share.
But what you were really asking him to do
was to separate himself from you,
that split his heart in two.

But you never knew
how words that were spoken
left gentle hearts broken.
You never knew
because you shielded your eyes
as you said your goodbyes.
If only you knew
how we loved you.

You’re my brother
and I never
wanted you to leave.
Won’t you come home?


Brother, you’ve been gone too long.
Dad’s been waiting for you
ever since you went away.
He stands for hours looking down the lane,
one hand on his back, one hand on his cane.

He’s delusional in his old age;
every day he asks our brother,
“where’s my child?
Where's my boy?
When’s he coming home?”
“How am I to know?!” he shouts at our father.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?!”

He’s been missing you, you know,
our brother, the first born, the beneficiary of the estate.
He’s been missing you, but he’d never admit it.
He’s working himself into the ground, you know,
just to forget that you’re not around.
Busy forgetting.
Busy fretting.

Mum’s been doing that too –
fretting, that is, not forgetting.
Her eyes well up each time she remembers
how her child is out of her reach,
how her child is beyond her grasp.
She breathes out a sob and breathes in a gasp.

She doesn’t know where you are,
            and it worries her.
She doesn’t know how you are,
            and it wounds her.
With both hands on her heart
she wails in fits and starts,
it’s tearing this family apart.
It’s as if you were dead, only worse.

I wish you were dead.
At least then we’d know where you are.
you could be anywhere.
Anywhere but here
            where you are loved
            where you belong.

I’ve been missing you too,
every time I’ve been thinking of you.
And I think of you all the time,
brother of mine.

You’re my brother,
and I need you here.
Won’t you come home? 

Brother, you’ve been gone too long.
So, I’ve packed my bag too,
I’m coming to find you.
Our brother says I’m being ridiculous,
he says I’ll die out there.
I know he’s right,
but I don’t know if he cares.

I hardly recognise him anymore,
he's not who he was before.
He’s bitter,
Only I am left,
both my brothers are dead.

My father has two lost sons.
One is far, one is near;
both are loved, both are heirs.
My father has two loved sons.

My brothers, your inheritance
is neither land nor livestock, but love;
neither materials nor money, but mercy.
Brothers, by birth you belong,
since birth you are beloved.

“Come! Quickly!” I hear my father call.
“My son is here! Here is my son!”

With legs in full stride
and arms open wide,
he runs.
With cloak waving
and voice trailing,
he runs.
With everybody staring
and not even caring,
he runs.

You’re my brother,
and you’ve come back,
you’ve come home.

Brother, you’ve been gone too long.
Come and eat,
come to the feast.

Let the whole household celebrate,
let the whole family rejoice!
For you were lost and then found,
you are now safe and sound.
You are here, you are held, you are home.

He’s given you his cloak and his ring,
people laugh, and dance, and sing.
But someone is missing.
When will my eldest brother come in?
He’s out in the fields, has anyone told him?

Wait, he won’t like this, no, not at all.
If he comes in there’ll surely be a brawl.
It’s too late, he’s here, but he won’t come in,
instead, he calls the old man out to him.

“What have you done?” I hear my brother say,
“I don’t want him here, send him away!
He’s caused enough hurt,
he's caused enough pain!
I never left, I never disobeyed.
All these years I’ve been slaving for you,
don't deny it, you know that it’s true!”

“My child,” he says, “you’re not my slave, you’re my son.
I know you’ve been hurt by what your brother has done.
My child, you are always with me,
I will always love you.
I have given you all I ever had
and now it’s time to celebrate and be glad.

Celebrate; my child is here, my child is home.
Celebrate; your brother is here, your brother is home.
Celebrate; you are here, you are home.
This is where my children belong.”

“But I’ve been here this whole time!” the eldest says.
“I’ve been here this whole time and you never celebrated.
No calves, no goats,
no rings, no cloaks.
Nothing. You never gave me anything!”

One of my brothers is home
but I’m afraid my other brother will leave.
He can’t go though,
we can’t go through this again.
Here is where this family belongs.

“My child,” our father whispers again,
“you are always with me,
I have always loved you.
My child, won’t you come in?”

He stares my brother full in the face.
With his hands open at his side, he waits.

You’re my brother
and you are loved.
This is your home.


  1. Ah Cate Burton, there isn't a telling of this story that has led me to tears quite so easily. I want to see it published acorss the sky. Here is our salvation family. Belonging, welcoming, struggling each with our own place within.
    Thank you.

    1. Emily, you summed it up right there, "belonging, welcoming, struggling..." :D