I grew up with the story of the Prodigal son. I could leave home, but it would never leave me. Home would always be waiting, right where I left it. All I had to do was turn around and run back. God the Father had open arms.
I didn’t count on losing my way. I never planned on going so far, being so long. I never intended to run away.
Sure, I wandered a bit. Doesn’t everyone? Short walks turned into day trips, day trips into excursions. After awhile I just never came home.
I heard my Father call, looking for me in the cool of the evening. Where are you? But I wasn’t ready to come home. I was busy. And maybe a little afraid. Afraid that he would be disappointed by the things I had done, afraid I wouldn’t be able to look him in the eye. Afraid that he would know.
So I ignored his voice. I stayed away. When I heard his footsteps I hid. I ran. I covered my ears. I buried my head and wished to God I had never known him. Would he never leave me alone?
My Father never stopped calling, but after awhile I couldn’t hear. I didn’t recognize his voice anymore. I was finally free, at home in this place of my wandering.
I invested all I had taken with me — my youth, my talents, the days of my life. At first the payoffs were big. I was in a secure relationship and had a job offer at a premier firm. Graduation was around the corner, and my life was taking off.
I wasn’t expecting the crash landing. I’m not ready to commit, he said. We won’t be able to hire you after all, they said. That was all, but my world crumbled.
Sure there were other men, other jobs. It wasn’t really the end of the world. But where to go from here?
Old habits die hard. My first instinct was to ask my Father. He always had the answers. I turned to ask, but I saw no one. I squinted, searching for the familiar shape of home on the horizon. Nothing. I listened hard. Lots of voices, but which was my Father’s?
I had thought I could always go home. But suddenly I realized I didn’t know how. My trail of crumbs had long been eaten. I had lost my way.
I don’t know why I told my sister I’d go. I wore my faded jeans with holes and an oversized college sweatshirt. The short usher smiled broadly as if I had been wearing my Sunday best, as if I had been a Bible carrying member of this congregation, as if I hadn’t just crawled out from under a rock. I had never seen him before in my life, but he seemed genuinely happy to see me.
I stood in that packed auditorium, surrounded by people basking in the presence of God. I could see it on their faces. They were home. How I wanted to be home.
I don’t remember what the preacher said. But I realized that coming home was always the same. The Son would have to show me the way. He would meet me where I was and carry me home to my Father. Because I could never do it on my own. Not then, not now.
Jesus, I don’t know where to begin. I can’t tell you where to find me because I don’t know where I am. Would you meet me here? Would you find me and take me home?
I have been home ever since. Now and then I still find traces of mud tracked in from that journey. But I’m home at last.