Friday, October 17, 2014

The Tragic Misunderstanding

General Stone was a very heroic man who had served his country and his family. His son John, from early on, seemed to be everything his father was not: utterly narcissistic, self-destructive and self-absorbed. John's lifestyle for years was drunkenness followed by drug binges until at a fairly young age he found himself with complete liver failure and in need of blood transfusions.

Faced with death, John felt he needed to repair his relationship with the general. His father not only forgave his son, but gave him his own perfect liver and his blood which saved his son's life. Of course, the gift killed General Stone. John was utterly thankful for his father's sacrifice of the gift of his own life.

His heartbroken mother told John that his father loved him and didn't condemn him but that he should go and do not drink and take drugs any more.

This irritated John. Why was mom always trying to interfere with his relationship with His dad? He showed his mother the legal medical form in which his dad signed over his liver and blood to his son.

"I am the legal recipient of my dad's gift. Look." He held out the paper to his mother for her perusal, "There is no judgment on me, no strings attached, no expectation of personal growth or change in behavior. Dad knew what I did and gave me his liver and blood unconditionally."

Mother looked worried. To her, it seemed he was being rather cavalier about her husband's life and supreme sacrifice for him and his sins. 

"But John! That gift wasn't carte blanche to continue living a life of drunkenness and drug use!" 

"Any attempt on my part," began John confidently, "to now merit dad's gift by some type of good behavior would, in fact, annul his unmerited, free gift! Dad would be furious if I now tried to earn his gift back. Dad doesn't want me to pay him back! That would make his gift a vulgarity—like it would be my 'salary' for my actions from here on out."

For a few second the woman looked at her son in shock, unable to speak.

"Uh…b…but," she finally stuttered, "but if you just go out and waste this precious gift? Is that why dad gave you his own life? So that you could go on taking drugs and living in continual drunkenness?"

"Did I say that? Did you hear those words come out of my mouth? Who said I was going to waste it? You misrepresenting what I am saying! I am just saying that dad's gift never in any way implied that I was supposed to get better and stop drinking or doing drugs."

The mother's expression did not change. 

"Dad knew I needed this liver to survive. Yes, I lived badly, but come on! There was zero reason for him to give it to anyone living a healthy life. So therefore it is because I was wicked that he gave it to me! 

"But don't you want to at least try and be better? For dad?"

"Try?" John huffed with exasperation, "Are you saying, mother, that I must merit my father's gift? You really don't get it." He sighed with impatience and began again with more control, "Dad wouldn't want me to try and live better. It should come easily now and it would make to no benefit it I worked to now prove I am worthy of the gift. If I work to be good now, then I am trying to pay off my dad for his gift. I already have dad's liver. His heroism is in me and that is enough to make me a hero no matter what I do."

Now the mother was utterly confused. "But what kind of son are you that you would neglect so great a salvation from your father!"

"How dare you suggest that my father wants me to work at being righteous on my own without him!"

"Of course not! You have your dad's blood flowing through you and me to help you? Why would you suggest you are on your own?Where does love fit in all of this, son? Don't you love your father even more now and aren't you more thankful to him for his gift?"

"Of course!" Now John was thinking his mother was just stupid. "But dad's gift was written in forensic, academic language rather than  love. This was a legal agreement between dad and me and truly mother, it is best if you stay out. I had a personal relationship with dad and I knew him as well…. no, obviously even better than you. I 'got' dad. Evidently, you didn't."

"What's the difference if the contract was one of love or legal? This is your dad! And he expected that you would grow up and change your life if he gave his life for you!"

"I am not saying I am going out and drinking and doing drugs anymore. I probably won't. But it won't be because dad gave me a gift expecting it," John shrugged.

Mrs. Stone took a deep breath. "I am speaking practically and you are speaking subtle theoretical differences in his meaning. Both roads end up in exactly the same place? You not ruining your life. Why did you put me through all this psycho-babble!"

"It is not psycho-babble, mom. If you think I was supposed to earn his liver and blood by my behavior….then you didn't know my dad. In fact I don't think you were ever even married to dad. I will have nothing more to do with you for you are saying false things about my father. In fact I think you are a whore—a whore of Babylon."

Mrs. Stone was stunned by that verbal blow.

John, in general, cleaned up his life and no longer took drugs or drank heavily. But he never forgave nor reconciled with his mother. He felt that even though he did sober up, he would never, ever allow into his thoughts that he had struggled to do it. He could never trust his mother, in fact, he claimed to have exposed her as a fake because her attitude about behaving. Works and good behavior to merit Dad's gift was her thing.

And of course, that was never the mother's intent. 


Arik said...

I am not sure I understand the point you are trying to make. The father had already given his son his liver and blood, and the son had accepted it. So my point is that the son can not merit or earn what he had already received freely.

Are you saying that salvation is unconditional? That the son who received life from his father can continue to live the life that warranted him needing the organ to begin with? Wouldn't the son be so greatful of the life he received freely be motivated by the love displayed by his father to never return to his old life? I do not think this is considered meritorious.

As a side note the son displayed a lack of honoring his mother (calling her a whore), isn't that against one of the commandments?

Teresa Beem said...

This is an allegory of works-righteousness from the perspective of a Protestant and a Catholic. In fact, we are not far from the exact same page, we just have different ways of looking at it.