An Image of Hope

Hope, from an image.  Not just an image, but a painting.  Not just a painting, but a Rembrandt; Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son.

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Rembrandt’s painting connects with a biblical passage, Luke 12.  Here is my “Readers Digest” version, a short paraphrase that does not do the full story justice.  So, accept my apology.  A younger brother, working with his father and older brother in the field, complained to his father about the hard work, the boredom.  He wanted to leave with all of his inheritance immediately.  The father agreed, with great consternation.  The younger brother left on his adventure, and it was not long before he blew his inheritance on drink and revelry.  Hungry because he had no food, no money.  He got a job at a pig farm, and saw that the pigs were getting fed better than he was.  The younger brother then decided to go back home, humble himself before his father (he was truly humbled, broken, devastated) and apologize; he would take a job as a hired hand.  At least he would not go hungry.

The Prodigal Son, welcomed by the father

 When the prodigal son came into view from where his father stood, the father ran to his son with unfathomable gratitude that his lost son was back.    He instructed his servants to put together a feast.  The (above) painting shows the younger son, the prodigal, in his ragged clothes, humbling himself before his father, expressing his sorrow for being a fool, and leaving home.  The older son’s jealousy and anger with his younger brother.  The older brother stands to the right in the painting, looking on, with jealous and angry with his younger brother.

Rembrandt painted The Return of the Prodigal Son about two years before his death, suggesting that Rembrandt identified with the Prodigal.  Rembrandt died penniless, before his fame could catch up with him.

Other paintings resonate with the theme of The Return of the Prodigal Son, such as “Merry Company” by Gerrit van Honthorst (1623), showing the Prodigal squandering his inheritance.

Image result for rembrandt paintings the prodigal son
“Merry Company” Gerrit van Honthorst 1623


I refer to hope, in this post, connected to Rembrandt’s painting, simply because the Prodigal found love, acceptance, and a place to belong.

Lastly, I cherish The Return of the Prodigal Son because I am a prodigal.  The difference is that I never really returned home.  I just made visits.  Yet, my father always loved me; always accepted me; always welcomed me.

All of this comes with strange timing.  Father’s day is coming up, and I consider that I could have been a better father for my son; as my father was to me.  My father is 93, and he recently experienced a fairly serious turn for the worst in the last 48 hours.  My brothers and I are hoping for the best.  Hope is what we have.  Hope emerges from different places, different people, different stories.


7 thoughts on “An Image of Hope

  1. what a beautiful, loving post. i think most of us have a bit of the prodigal within us, and some are lucky enough to find their place when they come back, if and when they do, others, must make their place in the world and hope to welcome back a prodigal if they should wander. it is filled with hope, you are right.


  2. Hi T ! How is your dad?
    Sorry I am late to read this – but longevity must run in the genes amigo!

    And wonderful take on this painting and bible story!
    And again – the timing is kind of cool for me – wanna know why?
    I was chatting with someone yesterday about art and boy was it fun! This lady was great – I then mentioned Henri Nouwen’s book based on the prodigal and hope to give her a copy of it/ in the meantime – I might send her here to read this post 🙂
    Oh and side note – remember with parenting we can never ever compare –
    I know some say that we strive to improve over parents – and improve generation to generation / but here is the issue with that – how do we measure this?
    We can’t
    We can say we were better or worse because no parent child relationship is the same – no dad and son role is ever the same and so different things apply –
    But the enemy sure likes to beat us up with negative views – or whispers lies –
    Or we ourselves have such high aims (human nature to want to give our kids our very best) and so sometimes we look at a cup half full because we live and want to give so much –
    But sometimes in the negative self talk or juts distorted thinking we miss many many healthy things we did – many great things we have our kids –
    But maybe as a human it is never enough – for some this is the case – and for some they are really their worse critics or any flaws of the child they take on as their contributing fault!
    I know u know this stuff with your background – but we forget with self at times – or we see raw and developing and forget it is healthy and alive !!
    Anyhow – just keep this in mind with your son – and with all those God has put in your life – you are exactly what God wants you to be for them- exactly! Flawed and all – strong and growing – and just like God knew our name before we were born – he knew our disposition and our flaws and our strengths –
    And T – God could have made us all perfect and stellar in all areas – but instead God leaves us “works in progress” because he wants us raw and real and growing!
    So be encouraged
    And like u said about God receiving u as a prodigal who visits – remember he knew that too!
    He is all knowing all powerful ever present and fully in control! Oh yeah –
    And thx for a great post!
    Peace and hugs


    1. Yo, Dr. Prior … Your comments came through the “Reply Machine”, and I didn’t know initially that I was being brought to a wonderful oasis with cool, energizing water … in Texas, they use the word “Waterin’ Hole” … You brought some good words, much-needed encouragement, and immensely appreciated wisdom! YAY!!! Your thoughts about the Prodigal are an example why I really love the story of the Prodigal, Rembrandt’s painting “The Return of the Prodigal”, Nouwen’s book about the Prodigal, and finally how the story of the Prodigal overlaps on to my own story. A good point is that God accepts us, even though we are visiting, as opposed to returning, home. I didn’t connect the dots on that one, but you did. Before I say “Later”, let me bring this: “…sometimes in the negative self talk or just distorted thinking we miss many many healthy things we did …” Oh, and Dad … thank you very much for asking … we are all at peace about the “now” and whatever happens. He has been sleeping non-stop for 5-6 days … Never has happened … He hasn’t opened his eyes or said a word during that time. A visiting hospice nurse says that this looks like his sleeping are indicative of his final stages. Dad has a “DNR”, refused IV treatment. But, its not time for me to go home, yet. I’ve written too much … Later.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh never too much for moi! And so nice to share with u again – I have so enjoyed our exchanges over via blogosphere and email –
        And your reply was fun – I like your colorful sentences and adjectives and metaphors –
        Ok – hope u have a good night – xxoo


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