Thursday, August 27, 2009

Delayed Gratification?

Hi there. I’m Renee Ryan and I’m blogging today. When I started pondering what to write about I found myself sitting in church during a sermon on the prodigal son. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard a sermon on this popular passage from Luke 15. Like most sermons I’ve heard about the prodigal son, this one focused on the return of the prodigal. What a wonderful lesson of repentance and forgiveness.

But I’ve always been fascinated with the “good” brother in the prodigal son story. On the surface, he seems to get the raw-end of the deal. He’s been obedient and loyal throughout his entire life, while his no-good brother has squandered his inheritance on wild living yet still gets the big welcome home party. When the older son grumbles, the father says to him in Luke 15: 32, “…we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

The message of this particular parable is that God accepts all lost people, no matter how far they’ve wandered away from Him and/or their faith. I think that’s an important message, a lovely reminder that it’s never too late to repent and that God’s grace is always sufficient. We don’t have to earn salvation. We just have to accept it.


As wonderful as this message is, there’s a portion of the prodigal son story many miss, the portion that included the father’s initial words to the “good” son. In Luke 15: 31, the father says to the grumbling older brother, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Did you catch that? Everything I have is yours. You see, the good son still has his father’s favor. He’s going to get what he deserves, eventually. Yes, the father rejoices when the prodigal returns, but he doesn’t give the boy another inheritance. That naughty boy does not get back all that he squandered. On the contrary, everything that belongs to the father will go to the obedient son. The mistake the “good” brother makes is demanding a reward he’s already been given.

Heavy stuff, huh?

I modeled the heroine in my latest release, HANNAH’S BEAU, after the “good” brother. I wanted to explore the bitterness that comes from thinking we deserve rewards simply for being good. Although Hannah is a strong, self-sufficient woman, she ultimately has to learn that obedience is always about doing what is right but it isn’t always about being right.

Life isn’t always fair. And we don’t always get our rewards up front. You see, Hannah’s twin sister, Rachel, learned early in life to use Hannah’s goodness to the detriment of them both. It is only when both sisters accept responsibility for their own actions, and release their bitterness toward the other, that either woman can move on to a healthy future full of love. And in Hannah’s case, that translates to a lifetime with her Beau. For me, I need to remember the beauty of delayed gratification. That’s a hard one in this drive-through age.


Teryl Oswald said...

Hi Renee,

Like all good books, your stories work on many levels. As a Sunday-afternoon read, HANNAH'S BEAU is fun, engaging, and thoroughly enjoyable. Considering your comments about the "good son," and the inspirational element springs to life. Thanks for sharing your insight.
Teryl Oswald

Anonymous said...


This was a perfect post. It spoke to me. HANNAH'S BEAU sounds like an inspiring read. :)


Julie A. Carda said...

Beautiful reminder of the abundance we are. Responsibility for our actions is a daily mantra. Thanks for the inspiration.
Julie Carda

Cheryl St.John said...

I agree with you 100% Renee. I do love that story--and I once wrote a book around the same principle of the good son who was left at home to handle the fallout in the family while the other son left to make his own way in life. It was A Husband By Any Other Name--a special edition and not an inspiratiobal, but the idea came right from those verses.

Thanks for the reminder about not only the love and redemption that is ours through Jesus, but the inheritance that is ours because we're chilren of the King.

Tracy Montoya said...

Renee, that was a beautiful blog. I haven't had much time to read, but clearly it's time to pull Hannah's Beau from the TBR pile!

Rebecca Ryan said...

What a beautiful blog! Thanks, Renee.

Renee Ryan said...

Hi Terry, you are so sweet. I love your analogy of a Sunday-afternoon read. I might have to use that in my log line. ;-)


Renee Ryan said...

Hi Lis'Anne (cool name, by the way)! So glad my post resonated. HANNAH'S BEAU isn't as heavy as my post. ;-)


Renee Ryan said...


Oh, yeah, personal responsibility is so important. I'm trying to train my 17 year old daughter in this concept before she heads off to college next year. Too bad mom "knows nothing." LOL


Renee Ryan said...

Oh, Cheryl,

A Husband By Any Other Name sounds awesome. Argh, I missed that one. How long ago did it come out? I would love to see how you put this theme in a secular book.


Renee Ryan said...

Hey, Tracy, if you're anything like me that TBR pile is huge. Mothering, wifing, working and writing leaves little time for reading. Er...I think I made up a few words there. Ah well...


Renee Ryan said...

Rebecca, so glad you enjoyed the blog! ;-)


Mary Connealy said...

I like it Renee. I guess I kind of identify with that 'good' son, too.
Of course none of us have missed a few 'prodigal' episodes. Least of all me. so maybe I'm wrong to identify as I do. :)

lizzie starr said...

Wonderful thoughts Renee...We much too often fail to look beyond the parable itself to what can be the real meaning. Don't cha just love all those levels!

A Sunday afternoon read...yep, that'd make a great sig line!

Anonymous said...

Great post.
thanks aprilr

Project Journal said...

This was a really grat post! I just had my second carpal tunnel surgery today and I think that I might have to try and pick up your book to read while recovering : ) Being 17, there are so many things I could be doing, but I am perfectly content reading! Plus, I have he same name as the heroine! Lol...

Cheryl Norman said...

I thought you did a great job showing the power of forgiveness, not just in Hannah but in Beau, too. I loved the book and look forward to the next. Good post, Renee.