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Adopted Son: An Allegory

If you struggle with assurance of your salvation, if you wonder if you love God and think you are undeserving of his Love, then this little story is for you.

Adopted Son: An Allegory
From Urbane and his Friends by Elizabeth Prentiss

A benevolent man found a half-starved, homeless, blind beggar-boy in the streets of a great city. He took him, just as he was, to his own house, adopted him as his own son, and began to educate him. But the boy learned very slowly, and his face was often sad. His father asked him why he did not fix his mind more upon his lessons, and why he was not cheerful and happy, like the other children. The boy replied that his mind was constantly occupied with the fear that he had not really been adopted as a son, and might at any moment learn his mistake.

Father. But can you not believe me when I assure you that you are my own, dear son?

Boy. I cannot; for I can see no reason why you should adopt me. I was a poor, bad boy; you did not need any more children, for you had a house full of them, and I never can do anything for you.

Father. You can love me and be happy; and as you grow older and stronger, you can work for me.

Boy. I am afraid I do not love you; that is what troubles me.

Father. Would you not be very sorry if I denied that you are my son, and turned you out of the house?

Boy. Oh, yes! But perhaps that is because you take good care of me, not because I love you.

Father. Suppose, then, I would provide someone else to take care of you, and would then leave you?

Boy. That would be dreadful.

Father. Why? You would be well taken care of, and have every need supplied.

Boy. But I would have no father. I would lose the best thing I have. I would be lonely.

Father. You see, you love me a little, at least. Now, do you think I love you?

Boy. I don’t see how you can. I am such a bad boy, and try your patience so. And I am not half as thankful to you for your goodness as I ought to be. Sometimes, for a minute, I think to myself, He is my father and he really loves me; then I do something wrong, and I think nobody would want such a boy, nobody can love such a boy.

Father. My son, I tell you that I do love you, but you cannot believe it because you do not know me. And you do not know because you have not seen me; because you are blind. I must have you cured of this blindness.

So the blind boy had the scales removed from his eyes and began to see. He became so interested in using his eyesight that, for a time, he partially lost his old habit of despondency. But one day, when it began to creep back, he saw his father’s face light up with love, as one after another of his children came to him for a blessing, and he said to himself, They are his own children and it is not strange that he loves them and does so much to make them happy. But I am nothing but a beggar boy; he can’t love me. I would give anything if he could. Then the father asked why his face was sad and the boy told him.

Father. Come into this picture gallery and tell me what you see.

Boy. I see a portrait of a poor, ragged, dirty boy. And here is another. And another. Why, the gallery is full of them!

homeless boy-adopted son

Father. Do you see anything amiable and lovable in any of them?

Boy. Oh, no!

Father. Do you think I love your brothers?

Boy. I know you do!

Father. Well, here they are, just as I took the poor fellows out of the streets.

Boy. Out of the streets, as you did me? They are all your adopted sons?

Father. Every one of them.

Boy. I don’t understand it. What made you do it?

Father. I loved them so that I could not help it.

Boy. I never heard of such a thing! You loved these miserable beggar boys? Then you must be made of Love!

Father. I am. And that is the reason I am so grieved when some such boys refuse to let me become their father.

Boy. Refuse? Oh, how can they? Refuse to become your own, dear sons? Refuse to have such a dear, kind, patient father? Refuse love?

Father. My poor, little blind boy, don’t you now begin to see your father’s heart?  Don’t you see that I did not wait for these adopted sons of mine to wash and clothe themselves, to become good, and obedient, and affectionate, but loved them because they were such destitute, wicked, lost boys.  I did not go out into the streets to look for well-dressed, well-cared-for, faultless children, who would adorn my house, and shine in it like jewels.

I sought for outcasts; I loved them as outcasts; I knew they would be ungrateful and disobedient, and never love me half as much as I did them; but that made me all the more sorry for them. See what pains I am taking with them, and how beautifully some of them are learning their lessons. And now tell me, my son, in seeing this picture gallery, do you not begin to see me? Could anything less than love take in such a company of poor beggars?

Boy. Yes, my father, I do begin to see it. I do believe that I know you better now than I ever did before. I believe you love even me. And now I know that I love you!

Father. Now, then, my dear son, let that difficult question drop forever, and begin to act as my son and heir should. You have a great deal to learn, but I myself will be your teacher, and your mind is now free to attend to my instructions. Do you find anything to love and admire in your brothers?

Boy. Indeed, I do.

Father. You shall be taught the lessons that have made them what they are. Meanwhile, I want to see you look cheerful and happy, remembering that you are in your father’s heart.

Boy. Dear father, I will!  But oh, help me to be a better son!

Father. Dear boy, I will.


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