Included in the book is a sketch of the biblical parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The image startled me, because for months I have been reflecting on Rembrandt’s other—famous and finished—painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son (on right). These slow, prolonged reflections were sparked and guided by two books by contemplative Christian writer Henri Nouwen centered around the painting and source parable. They were exercises in confronting emotions such as envy, insecurity, and distrust and in acknowledging the supreme care and providence of God, the Father.
The sketched scene from the book is very different from the painting—rawer, barer, more plain. Yet I see the same gestures and emotions in this flurried, sepia-tone depiction as in the fully realized painting. There, the generous embrace. There, the collapse of shame. There, the envious gaze. Here is a trinity of homecoming and its tensions—a picture of grace given, resisted, and received: