Reflection by Father William “Bill” Miller
Pig Pods, Dancing Dogs, and Bitter Brothers
When I moved to the island of Kauai from Texas, a veterinarian friend came to visit. I took her to tour the Kauai Humane Society (the island animals call it a “five-paw resort!”). One goofy-looking fellow was so happy to see us that he ran up and pressed himself against the chain-link fence. The Humane Society could tell us only that they found him wandering by the side of the road. He’d either left home for some reason,or never had one. We took him outside. His exuberance was uncontainable! He began to dart and dance, joyfully leaping toward the heavens, pausing only to lick my face. My friend examined him and pronounced him physically fit and psychologically sound. “Whatever he’s been through,” she said, “all is forgiven. He’s happy to be alive. This guy’s a keeper.”
So I kept him. I named my new Texawaiianpoi dog (mutt) Nawiliwili Nelson. Wilibecame my best friend. His love for me was unconditional, his faithfulness unwavering. His unbounded enthusiasm for life, which I loved, occasionally did land him in trouble, like the day he ran across the street and into the second-grade classroom at Wilcox Elementary, or the Sunday morning he knocked over a lady at my church simply because he was happy to see her. But no matter what he got himself into, it was easy to look past Wili’s faults because I knew he would look past mine. Whether I was gone for thirty minutes or thirty days, Wiliwould wait for me at the front door. When I walked in, his happy dog dance catapulted him straight into my arms.
When his special-needs doggie brother, Sinbad, was adopted, Wilinever grew weary of showing him how to be a dog. Even when we moved to New Orleans and a pit-bull, Mahalia Jackson Queen Liliuokalani, came to live with us, Wiligreeted her with open paws. His attitude reminded me of the One who made both of us—eternally happy to welcome us home.
When the religious zealots of his day (purebreds) judged Jesus for hanging out with real people (mutts), painfully aware of their own shortcomings, Jesus shared a powerful story of a young man who demanded his inheritance early, just so he could sniff out the greener grass he thought was far from home. He had a good time—for a little while. But he ran out of money, meaning, and everything that matters. He got a part-time job feeding pigs. He was so hungry that he even craved the pods the pigs were eating. He came to his senses and set out for home, determined to seek his father’s forgiveness and work off his debts like a hired hand.
What he didn’t know was that his faithful father had waited by the front door the whole time. While he was still far off, his father saw him, flung open the door, and ran full-speed to greet him. He nearly knocked him over! His dad threw a big party and barbecued his tastiest cow. Everyone danced and celebrated. Everyone, that is, except his bitter big brother. The elder brother assumed that, because he had never strayed far from home, his dad owed him something. He was mad at his dad for not throwing hima party. His dad embraced him and assured him of his love, reminding him that when anyone returns home, when one who never thought they could be forgiven, is not only forgiven but given a fresh start—it’s time to party!
We don’t know the rest of the story, but I hope, for his sake, he came to his senses. I hope that rather than staying angry, distant and judgmental, he eventually embraced his long-lost brother and joined in the celebration, forgiving everyone, especially himself. I hope that he danced. I hope that he danced with the joyful exuberance of someone who had finally found a way home.
Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.
In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.