Jason Gray wrote a song about eight years ago called The Golden Boy and the Prodigal. Here are a few of the lyrics, as he talks about his inner struggle between putting on a mask and actually being real:
“One of them’s the golden boy the, man I’d like to be. I show him off in the parades for all the world to see. The other one’s much weaker, and he stumbles all the time. The source of my embarrassment, he’s the one I try to hide. [The golden boy’s]… vice is the virtue that he never had to earn. The prodigal has been broken and emptied at the wishing well, but he’s stronger for the breaking with a story to tell.
I suggest going and listening to the song. It won’t take long, just a few minutes or so. Here’s the link, or you can search The Golden Boy and the Prodigal by Jason Gray in the Googles and it should pop up.
Everyone wants to be something. We all have these visions of who we will be in five years. Maybe that vision includes a spouse. Maybe it includes a well-paying job, or a better housing situation, or a perfect GPA. Or maybe all you want in the five years is a cute little puppy dog.
Maybe your vision extends to just the next day. All it includes is what you are planning on wearing tomorrow, or when you will wake up, or what you will eat for breakfast. Whether you realize it or not, day by day, month by month, you are becoming some-thing, some kind of person, and we often define ourselves by our accomplishments and the good things about our life. You know, something like, “Oh I graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering…” Or, “I just got all A’s this semester…” or, “My son just got a job…” or even, “We just finished paying off our house…(I dunno, that sounds adult-like right?)”
Most of the time, these accomplishments and methods of identification are positive. We have a tendency to filter out those negative things we’ve done, our failures. But two things happen when we filter out and try to separate who we are from our failures: 1) We collect and edit this perfect scrapbook of our lives that we present to others, who themselves are presenting a picturesque life. 2) We miss out on part of who we are by forgetting who we were during those times of failure.
So the self we end up presenting is often hollow, shallow, fake. Failures become increasingly catastrophic as each little hiccup becomes a PR damage control event. We can’t let others see the little cracks, because God forbid, they might notice we are imperfect, just like everyone else.
Let me clarify: We are not our failures. Do not hear me say we need to cling to our failures and let them identify us. Our failures do not define us, but too often we edit out the valuable part of who we are from our failures. Or maybe we’re too scared to fail and then to deal with what that failure might have to reveal about us.
Or MAYBE, we’re too scared to become who we are, and consequently, we are scared to step out and see who that person actually is. Maybe who you are to be is not someone or something that is appealing to you right now for whatever reason that may be. Maybe your parents or your friends or your jobs are controlling you and telling you who you should be and ever so slowly you are beginning to believe that’s who you should be. Maybe you’ve seen what everyone else wants you to be, what will make you fit in the best, and you want to be that thing, so everyone will like you.
Maybe you have this idea of what a good person should look like, someone who is acceptable to God. This person loves everyone all the time, never snaps in anger, always reads his or her bible, so on and so forth. Maybe that’s who you are trying to become.
Sometimes who we want to be is not who we ought to be. Sometimes in our efforts to be perfect, we miss out on who we were made to be.
Enter the golden boy and the prodigal.
There are two sides to every person. The golden boy – that picturesque person we walk around presenting, and the prodigal – the person who, deep down, we know we are; the person who has all these terrible thoughts and desires and failures and good intentions and messed-up relationships.
Now you might be saying right about now, “Seth, thanks for the motivational pick-me-up. What I hear you saying is that all we ever are and could be is our failures and messed up personalities.”
I say to you, why is that bad? That’s the person Jesus came and died for. That’s the person Jesus came to save, so why do we reject that part of ourselves?
Look, I think what I’m trying to say is that we are all becoming someone, and the someone we all-too-often want to become is not who we actually are. Even though I am a mess and even though I am constantly failing and choosing bad over good, Jesus came and died for the prodigal and not for the golden boy. Jesus died for the mess, and because of that, I am free to embrace my failures and messy self knowing that they will not define me.
After all it’s not about me or my failures because it’s about Christ and his utterly re-defining work on the cross. Because of him and his actions, I am free to admit I am a right mess, and yet I am still loved and accepted by God as if I were Christ himself.
And because I am loved and accepted by God as if I were Christ himself, I am free to change my actions, to choose a different identity than what my failures are saying, and to live a life where ultimately it’s not about me.
Matthew 16:25 – “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Whenever we try to preserve our image and our life by clinging to the golden boy, we will lose ourselves and who we were meant to be. When we decide to lose our life for the sake of Christ by owing up to the prodigal, then we will find who we were truly meant to be, and that is a wonderful identity to cling to.
As always, feedback friends! I love it. Have you heard of the song before? If so, what were your thoughts? What are your thoughts on the song after listening to it?
P.S. Look forward to a Post Study Abroad Blog. I’m working on it now.