To the Prodigal’s Brother

I know your story well
a familiar blend of nurture and nature—
but I don’t know you,
not really.
Not your name, your interests, your fears
(well, I can guess at them).
Just your birth order–
firstborn, a millstone.

You don’t come out well in your story
sad to say—not at all.
Resentful, ungracious, even envious
with a sprinkling of self-pity
as you watched your younger brother
floating in a sea of grace.

Oh, I know your story like my own.
You are no outlier, no rebel
deep down, you chose obedience, submission,
to be “good.”
No resister of authority or breaker of rules,
you lapsed into the security of compliance.

You’d never have played that role and
Threaten your security-padded acquiescence.
So, self-soothed, you ignored
the questions on the edges
of the straight and narrow:
Certainly convinced,
Convinced through certainty.

Easy for you to judge the ones who asked,
who pushed outward, wondering
about the grandness and the mystery—

while you
suffocated in unasked questions,
Unaware the air had no conditions:
and trained your heart into compliance,
to safeguard what was freely given—

Taking on a weight of Love without expectations,
you made of the weightless
a burden unseen, unrelieved.

What did you lose for those years of
Ignoring your mind’s reach and
your heart’s longing,
Willing the questions down,
Basking in self-regulation?

Yoked to a burden in my own image,
A lifelong elder sister,
I toiled for Love freely lavished
And longed to float in a sea of grace.

As a teacher and mentor, Karen DuBert has served people marginalized by poverty and prejudice in five countries. Now in the autumn of her life, she coaches young people for cross-cultural work in Andalucia, Spain, delighting in the juxtaposition of cultures and learning to absorb more world views.