The Prodigal's Sister

Part 1

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It has been ten years since the Prodigal Son left everything he knew – his home, his sister, his older brother, and his father. And now the prodigal’s sister intends to fulfill her promise, to find the Prodigal dead and bring him home alive. John Piper opens for us the world of the Prodigal, where the awakening grace of God breaks in. The rebellion of a son, the love of a sister, the grace of a Father, and the bitterness of the older brother are all recreated for us in this moving three-part poem.

The road down from the father's farm
Was empty, like an empty arm
That once embraced and then let go,
Or one that beckoned from below.
The road runs west and curves its way
Through miles and miles of wheat, and may,
At harvest time, look like a path
Through paradise, or walls of wrath,
Like water heaped on either side
Of Israel, for one, a tide
To save, and for another, slay.
At first the slope that leads away,
And westward falls, is kind and soft,
Then cursed with falling stones, and oft
With wind and rutted steeps. And so,
It proves an easy way to go,
And hard to come. The front porch of
The mansion, with a roof above
For shade, and rocking chairs below,
Was planned and built ten years ago,
And faces west. And recently
A ramp was added there to free
The old man from the steps. His knees
Had gotten bad.

The cedar trees,
Spread 'round the house, cast shadows now
As Hahyaneta kept her vow,
And sat before her father on
The steps, and prayed that dusk or dawn
Would bring her brother home. The old
Man watched her from his chair, controlled
And measured in the mingling of
His pain and pleasure, with a love,
Perhaps, that only fathers know.
Her brother Mãnon long ago
Gave up these futile seasons (as
He thought) and worked instead. He has
More fruitful things to do, than gaze
With dreamers as the final rays
Of light and hope, he said, fade from
The western sky. His heart was numb
And cold. And so his father cried,
And felt that both his sons had died:
The one from play when passions boil,
The other from his toxic toil.
The one a hundred miles away,
The other even while he stay.
The one a slave to lust and fools,
The other slave to laws and rules.

But Hahyaneta freely came
And nightly watched her brother's name
Fall from her father's silent lips
In prayer, and saw the way it rips
His heart, and learned from him the way
To love. This night her mind would stray
Back to the time ten years ago
And more, when she was eight or so,
And, Oh, so happy when they played
With her. Both brothers and the staid
Old man, now sitting in his chair,
Eyes closed and whispering his prayer,
Would lie down in the autumn sheaves
And she would cover them with leaves
And cedar straw. Then she would leap
And clap, as if to wake from sleep,
And there would be a great earthquake,
And three grown men would rise and shake
And shout aloud with arms outspread:
“Our little girl can raise the dead.”

And so tonight she pondered this.

At eighteen she still felt the kiss,
Of Níqvah on her cheek, ten years
Ago, for one last time, and tears
Ran down his face when she said, “Níq,
Don't go.” She hugged his waist. Then quick,
As if to do it while he could,
He turned and ran down through the wood,
So he could stop to cry, then fled
Along the empty road that led
Down to the west away from all
His family and home. A call
That no one understood, and he,
Perhaps, the least, now seemed to be
All-overpowering. His place
Was bare, nor has she seen his face.

Ten years have turned a little lass
Into a woman now. But pass
As time may do, some things do not.
And Hahyaneta's heart for what
One day she planned to do, was just
As sure as on that night she thrust
Her little hand into the dark
And said, “I'll find you, Níqvah! Mark
My words. Someday I'll find you dead
And bring you home alive.”

His head
Was lifted now, and eyes were wide
To look once more and see who plied
The road from west to east. At last
She said, “My father, firm and fast,
Like great spikes in a tree, your love
For Níqvah strengthens me above
My every other love, save yours,
And year by year this love endures.
And now I am eighteen, and ask
Your blessing on the only task
That I have dreamed and planned for all
These years that Níq, since I was small,
Has been away. I want to go
And find him where he is, and show
Him he can still come home.”

He closed
His weak'ning eyes as if he dozed,
Then said, “Just like your mother spoke,
You speak. She would be pleased to stoke
Your fire and send you on your way
With iron shield and sword to slay
Whatever dragons lay twixt you
And exploits that you aim to do.”
He smiled. “But, Hahya, she is gone,
You know. All dragons slain but one:
The fever. She fought well and lost
And now, my daughter, is the cost
Of having Níqvah, losing you?
It is not safe for girls to do
Such things, or go where Níqvah lives.
I've been there many times. It gives
My heart a shudder just to think
Of how they lust and what they drink
And what they say to girls and do.
Níqvah is not the boy that you
Remember, Hahyaneta. He's
Changed.”Father, I know all of these
Unpleasant things. It's plain to me
That he has changed. But so have we.
Ten years of prayer were not in vain.
And I believe some things remain
From all you've taught, a tender tug,
And that he still can feel the hug
I gave him when he pulled away
Just like I feel his kiss today.
And, Father, most of all, you taught
Me there's a Pow'r in love that naught
Can thwart, and that it moves where truth
And courage speak, and neither youth
Nor age can hinder its success,
But only fear and quietness.
My mother died when I was six
And I still see today the sticks
She broke and said, ‘See that! Just so
God breaks the back of ev'ry foe
To bring his children home.' I think
That she would let me go.”A blink,
My daughter, in a blink she would
Have let you go.”And you? I could
Not well succeed without your hand
Of blessing on my head.” He scanned
The darkening west and empty road
And fields, and wondered what they bode
Now for his little girl; then raised
His trembling, empty arm and praised
The grace and courage in her heart,
And did then, in these words, impart
A blessing, with his right hand laid
Now gently on her head: “Invade,
My valiant daughter, darkness now,
And I will keep our common vow
Here in this place until you come
Again, and may you bring me some
Good news beyond the gift of men,
That both my boys may live again.”

As we light candle one today,
Let none relent, but ever pray,
And when the months stretch into years
And decades gather up the tears,
Know this, a little girl – or it
May be a boy – is being knit,
All by design, in someone's womb
For hope and with a happy loom;
And will become, in ways that you
Have never dreamed nor ever knew,
A light within your darkening sky,
And answer to your endless cry.