Notes on “The Prodigal”

There isn’t just one prodigal in the parable of the prodigal son.

There are two.

  • One leaves home.
  • The other stays home.
  • The first can’t believe that God can love him.
  • The other believes that God can’t love him — without making sure that it’s the other son God doesn’t love.

Neither of them “gets” God….

  • God’s capacity for forgiveness
  • God’s capacity for love

We are inhabited by both prodigals…

Prodigal daughters — prodigal sons.

One dominates the other from time to time in our lives.

But they are both always there.

Which prodigal dominates your life right now?

Which God animates your faith and life?

  • The God who can’t love the prodigal who leaves home?


  • The God who always wants more from the prodigal who stays home? 

Whether you stay at home or leave, the road home begins in the arms of the God who forgives and loves beyond what we are able to imagine.


The art that appears here is the work of He Qi.  His virtual gallery can be found at:



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About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.