The Velveteen Equation (Part 3): Return of the Gingerbread Man


“Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle”  Soren Kierkegaard

Spoiled, rotten brat! You think you can get whatever you want, and when you don’t get your way you throw a fit, make a scene, and run away……..yes, Mr. Gingerbread Man, I’m talking about you! Not content to fulfill your purpose as a son, brother, and friend, you run off into the wide world, where everywhere you turn something is waiting to eat you alive. You taunt and mock and think that you’ll always be fastest, you’ll always be free to play your games. Back at home, your mother misses you; but you never think about her, do you? You never think about anyone BUT yourself, you sorry excuse for a cookie.

In a lot of ways, the story of the Runaway Gingerbread Man reminds me of the parable of the Prodigal Son. A young man with everything decides it’s just not enough for him and leaves, but not without first disrespecting his father with his very own version of the Gingerbread Man’s “neener neener neener”. Many of us have been a prodigal in one way or another. We may never know the pain and grief we’ve caused our loved ones when we set off on our journey to “find ourselves”, or whatever you want to call it. It’s not that all such journeys are entirely selfish or wrong, but many times it is easy for us to justify the wrong things for the wrong reasons at the wrong times. The prodigal in the parable would have eventually inherited his portion, in due time, as a beloved son and cherished member of the family; but, impatient for “his rights” and not recognizing the value of what he had already been given, he took what he could get, ran away, and then made a BIG mess!

He didn’t realize it at first. None of us realize it when we’re in the middle of  “making our own decisions”, decisions that would be better labelled “another fine mess”. It takes us all awhile to realize that the sound in our ears is not applause, but jeering; the smell in our nostrils is not the perfume of success, but the stench of something else. IT happens, but it does us no good to surround ourselves with heaping piles of it in the name of individuality, now does it? OK, moving right along…..

The Prodigal Son’s story had a happy, unexpected ending. He experiences completely undeserved open-armed, open-hearted forgiveness and acceptance from the father he had wronged (as well as a supremely jealous older brother, but that is a topic for another blog post). The father in the story represents the desire of God to fully reconcile us to himself, no matter how filthy, dirty, ick-poo our lives have been previously. The message of this story is: there is room on the cross for your past, present, and even future screw-ups. The Father loves you more than he is saddened by your sin. You will never smell too much like pig for him to reach out to you.

Mr. Gingerbread Man’s story, however, has a somewhat sadder ending, as do the stories of many prodigals who stubbornly stick to their guns. He ends up being the lunch of a crafty fox, who was all too willing to take advantage of such a tasty, gullible, and foolish morsel. Let their stories be a lesson to you. Don’t be consumed by the world and its users and abusers. Run into the arms of the Father. He has been waiting for you long enough already.

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

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