“And he was angry, and would not go in….”  Luke 15:28

Listening to Garrison Keillor read the story of the Prodigal Son this morning, these words jumped out at me – “And he was angry, and would not go in….”  We know the context.  The younger brother, the prodigal, has returned home after “wasting his substance with riotous living (v. 13), and the brother returns from a day in the field to find that, at the father’s urging, a party is underway to celebrate the prodigal’s return.

I think the best way to describe the older brother’s mindset and reaction is with a word I am partial to – “snit.”  My on-line dictionary defines “snit” as “a fit of irritation; a sulk,” and that is a fine definition, but it ignores the complexity and maturing of the “snit.”  What starts out as crying, with a few years, turns into “I’ll take my toys and go home.”  A few more years down the road brings the sulk, and before you know it your “snit” had progressed into (a personal favorite) “I’ll just do it myself.”  Indeed, “snit” is a multi-faceted word, one that takes on many forms and can be defined in many ways, but I often think that one would do just as well defining the word by replacing the “n” with an “h,” as in “being a ___.  In any event, and no matter how one choses to define it, “snit” is a word I am intimately familiar with, and the older son is certainly in one when the father (after, in my mind’s eye, rolling his eyes and sighing) walks out to intreat the older brother to join the party.

The snit removes the older son from the festivities and places a wall between him and them.  How can one eat, drink, and be merry when one refuses to eat, drink, or be merry?  Sadly, we don’t know how the story ends.  When we leave the story, the father has given it his best shot.  “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.  It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; was lost, and is found.”  Yes, that verse puts a lump in my throat each time I read it, or Keillor does, but it is easy to underestimate the power of the snit, and its ability to prompt irrational action.  This is true (so I’ve heard) because ultimately, the snit takes all the power to change the situation away from God and others and puts it into the snit-for-brains mind in which the snit (some might call it “pride”) is its own reward.  Ultimately, we are left with questions, not answers.  Does the older brother join the festivities?  Do I?

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