Even the pigs had noticed the change in him

This is a story I wrote earlier in the year at a storytelling workshop. It’s a midrash – a Jewish storytelling artform which takes a familiar story and retells it through the eyes of one of the minor characters. This midrash is best read aloud in a broad Gloucestershire or Bristol accent!

Even we had noticed the change in him.

When he first arrived at our farm, that first day he was pretty polite. He needed a job, needed somewhere to sleep, needed something to eat. He had nothing with him, but the ‘simple’ look didn’t really suit him. He wasn’t from round here, he didn’t belong.

The next day he was angry, and he stayed angry. Angry at himself I think, but he took it out on us, kicking our food buckets, kicking some of us small ones, stomping around, didn’t care about the mud or the smell. Occasionally he would glance back at the road he came in on, but mostly he was wrapped up in himself, angry and frustrated.

As the days passed, something in him softened. He stopped looking back toward the big city, he was weary and tired. He didn’t kick much any more, he didn’t really do anything, but he did still feed us. He was broken, near to giving up. He looked longingly at our food, a big no-no for people where he’s from. He was a sight for sore eyes.

Then one day he was gone. He knew where he was going, not back to the big city, but the other way, the narrow road at the back of the farm.

Even we had noticed the change in him.

I was thinking about the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 and trying to describe that turning point which the son must reach before he can bring himself to go back home to his father. The low point at which the sinner repents looks different for each of us, and I wanted to explore how the son needs to wrestle with himself, his anger, his obvious failure before giving it up to God. In the church we don’t always give people enough time to wrestle, perhaps demanding their surrender to God before they are ready to give it and so surrender is only partial.

How can we be more like the pigs? Giving people space to wallow and be angry and yet freedom to make a choice about the future. The role of the pigs is unfulfilling, unglamorous and messy but also a strange and wonderful privilege. I hope to do more walking alongside, more sharing pain and struggles and somehow more pointing to Christ whilst entirely stuck in the mud.

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