I tried to switch off. I didn’t want to hear a Bible story. But somehow I found myself captivated by the gentle rhythm of Agnes’ voice.
I was frustrated to the point of anger. Why couldn’t my family see I was now a grown man, able to make my own decisions? My father expected me to carry out his orders exactly. I was allowed no freedom to try new methods.
One morning I snapped.
My older brother, Perez, and I had received our father’s instructions for the day and we were supervising the olive harvest. It was important work. The farm workers were careless about tossing diseased or decaying fruit into their bags. Rotten fruit contaminated the whole crop. So Perez and I walked amongst the workers, checking their bags at random.
It was hot, tedious work. The olive trees offered little shade. As the owner’s son, I believed I deserved better. Perez loved the land, but I was drawn to the city. Jerusalem buzzed with activity. I wanted to sell our produce there, make lucrative deals with interesting people and meet the lovely daughters of my father’s business contacts. I wanted to see life! I dreamt of travelling to the exotic cities in the east! I was not satisfied with my life as I wandered around the olive orchard.
So I snapped. I went to the fields as my father demanded, but after an hour in the heat the tedium got to me. I threw down my bag, half-full of olives, and strode away from the trees. Perez called to me.
“Aaron, where are you going?”
I waved my hand dismissively at him as I marched away. It was none of his business. I’d had enough of his superiority. As the younger brother I really did have a raw deal.
I burst into the cool, dark room where my father carried out his business. He took one look at my face and gently dismissed the man who helped him with the accounts. Sighing, he put down his pen, laid his hands on his lap and asked me what was wrong.
“I’ve had enough, Father! I can’t take this kind of life anymore! I have to go. There’s more to life than wandering up and down fields supervising servants and counting olives. I want to see the world. I’m wasting away here and it’s time for me to go.”
I took a deep breath and continued, “Father, give me my share of the estate.”
I anticipated anger and suspected we would have another argument. It would probably end with me storming out in a rage again. Perhaps he’d just refuse permission and discipline me in some way.
I was shocked by his response.
“So the time has come. I’ve been expecting it, Aaron, and have made preparations for this day, although it breaks my heart to see you leave. Give me until sunrise and I will have your share of the estate – half of all I own – ready for you. Then you may go to live your life in whatever way you choose.”
His words and the look on his face sucked the breath out of me. His gentle agreement was totally unexpected. I’d always known my father as a hard man. His word was law and he never doubted his orders would be carried out. Yet now, as I rebelled against him, his voice was softer than I’d ever heard it. For a moment I thought I could see tears in his eyes. But the light in the room was poor and my hardened heart refused to be moved by the emotions of this man who’d dominated my life.
I tried to make my voice sound strong and determined.
“Thank you, Father. I’ll be here at dawn to collect what’s due to me.”
I turned and walked away. I had no desire to see what my father would do next. I needed to get away from the unexpected emotion his response had produced in me.
I spent the rest of the day sorting through my possessions. I would only take a few things with me. I wanted no reminders of my old life, and with all the money coming to me tomorrow – tomorrow – I could afford to start a new life!
I avoided both my father and Perez for the rest of the day. I didn’t want any confrontations with my brother, nor did I want to face my father’s emotion again.
I did, though, go to say farewell to my mother. She’d heard what was happening. My father had been to see her. She was tearful but, after clinging to me for a little longer than usual, she let me go with her usual loving words of blessing. I love her dearly. She’s always been there for me, and it was hard to turn away and leave her. But I knew I had to go so I kissed her gently and walked away.
The next morning, before the sun had even risen above the hills, I knocked and entered my father’s room. He was there alone. I was grateful. I’d been afraid Perez would be with him. He rose and walked around the table where he worked. He came to me and gave me a bag, tied at the top with heavy cord.
“Here’s your share of my estate,” he said. “Use it wisely, my son. May God go with you.”
His voice was calm. I detected no emotion in it, but immediately he had said the words he turned from me, his head down and walked back to his chair.
I didn’t wait.
“Thank you, Father. May God be with you too.”
I spun around and rushed out of the room. I didn’t want to linger and betray my own feelings. I was confused. It had seemed such a good idea yesterday – a stroke of luck – but now I was in turmoil. Saying goodbye to my parents hadn’t been as easy as I thought it would be.
Slipping out through the servants’ entrance, I managed to avoid meeting Perez and, once beyond the confines of my home, I strode down the road into my future, whistling an encouraging tune to myself. The further I went, the more it began to dawn on me.
I was free!
I was rich!
The world lay at my feet!