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Can you find yourself in Rembrandt’s painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son?”
The three main characters in this renowned painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son” are also found in The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) — the father, the younger brother, and the older brother. This story and painting have transformed my life, and are a deep source of inspiration behind my music and calling.
As I share how and why, look for yourself in the story. I believe this can be transforming for your story too… (please see the two excellent resources down at the bottom, which have spoken very powerfully into my story as well).
The Younger Brother (Kneeling). For much of my life this parable in Luke was a wonderful story. The father’s forgiveness of his youngest son was a beautiful symbol of God’s forgiveness of my sin. This picture of God’s grace spoke to me, but my wonder was limited. I couldn’t relate. This youngest son had taken his share of his father’s estate and squandered it all on reckless living. I am the oldest of three sons. I wanted to please my parents and follow the rules. However, I did envy people who seemed to be having so much fun with “reckless living” (I also quietly judged them). I have had my “prodigal son moments” in life, but I didn’t think this story applied so much to me, since it was really for those who had “lost it all.” Or was it?
The Older Brother (Standing). I can relate to the older brother. This is me, since I have two younger brothers. Because the “Prodigal Son” story doesn’t focus so much on the older brother, I thought I was safe. His story is in the last section of the parable, more of a footnote than the headline. He had stayed home, spending his life serving his father and taking care of his estate. He was prudent, not reckless. However, when his father held a great feast and party to celebrate his younger brother’s homecoming, the older brother was angry and refused to go in. It took many years for God to reveal this “aha” moment in my life. For too long, I had taken life too seriously, not having enough joy, and quietly holding a self-righteous pride in my heart. Now the story did apply to me. God was showing me I needed His love, grace, and forgiveness just as much as the younger brother.
The Father (Touching). As Tim Keller and Henri Nowen so eloquently illustrate, God can enable each of us to have the heart of the father in the story. He loved both of his boys, the youngest and the oldest. His love was filled with grace, acceptance, and forgiveness toward both, more than either son realized. This revelation is what transformed me. God wants me, wants us, to be like the father in the story — to love people well, to grow in seeing them through His eyes, from a heart of grace, forgiveness, and acceptance. The “heart of the father” has been breaking through in my life ever since. This is the heart behind my music — to meet people where they are, to express God’s peace, rest, hope and healing through Scripture inspired piano.
How does this speak to your story? What character are you? Who do you want to be?
The following are links to two of the very best books on this subject, which offer amazing insights into the deep meaning of Luke’s writing and Rembrandt’s painting: The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, by Tim Keller, and The Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, by Henri Nouwen.
Stanton Lanier says
Thank you for reading and listening to my music. Blessings to you!
PK Bailey says
Dear Mr. Lanier,
I have always loved the complex music than emanates from a piano keyboard. I played a bit as a child, but no longer. Piano and cello duets are some of my favorite pieces. I was often in awe of the calming peace that came over me when bathed in the beauty of soft piano music. Years ago I heard an interview with you on the radio as I drove to work. You were discussing the healing powers of music. I thought of David playing for Saul to calm him when he could not sleep. I immediately became one of your biggest fans. “Bread of Angels” is an all time favorite of mine. My husband went home to be with the Lord a week before last Thanksgiving. He was in and out of the hospital very frequently. I would take a portable speaker to his room and play your music over him as he rested. It calmed us both and truly gave us a peace. I know this comment in lengthy, but I believe encouragement is a blessing and I want to thank you for how you have allowed God to weave your life into mine in such a special and important way. I can rest peacefully when your music lulls me to sleep. I am forever grateful for your ministry. May God continue to enrich your life as you let your gift of music bless us all. Amen.
Stanton Lanier says
Dear PK, thank you so much for taking time to share your comments, and some of your story about how much my music has meant to you. I am sorry to hear you lost your husband last fall, but am grateful you know He is with Jesus, and that my music gave you both His peace, and continues to bring peace to you. Thank you for the blessing of your encouragement, and may the Lord bless you in 2019! – Stanton