Though I had traveled this now deserted road before, it seemed to have grown menacing on my return. In my absence, the trees had grown taller, seeming to block the light from my face. The fields had become unruly and gave me a threatening impression from behind stone boundaries. The dust swirling in puddles around my feet became a menace to my already broken heart.
My head hung low, tears flowed from my eyes, blinding the very journey ahead. Mud covered me in a layer so thick, I wasn’t sure where vestment ended and my flesh began these days. Walking for days had me sun scorched and vulnerable. My hair hung in matted tresses across my back and across my left cheek. Scars of the horrors I had endured flashed out from my eyes now dimly lit.
This hadn’t always been my fate.
Those days seemed a lifetime ago. Returning home from a squandered journey, hoping that my Father will find a place in the house for me to serve him. I no longer bare any resemblance to the boy who left home those years ago. In the ignorance and entitlement of my youth, I had insulted my father and asked for my part of his inheritance, before his death. I had thought that I knew how money worked and that I had been stifled at home. In the midst of my desire for excess in all things, the money had run out and I had been reduced to a farm worker, barely having more than the swine I helped clean of their filth. My days had been spent in sorrow, wishing for consequences that weren’t quite so humbling.
I am in no hurry to reach home. I have planned out the words that will be on my breathe to my father. I don’t even want to call him father, i have disgraced him and am not worthy to even have his lips bare the name of son. I will bow before him, I will weep my sorrow and i will ask for a measure of grace from him, giving me a place in the servants of his table. My father has always been a just man, he will see the measure in my plan.
A strange sound begins to fill my ears. I lowered eyes slowing take in a cloud of dust coming quickly towards me. I have been along so much of this journey, I was wary of a fellow traveler on the road. But as my tears begin to dry and my eyes see through the dust, I see bits of color and my head wants to make sense of the vision before me. Blinking I strain to see what my brain tells me is indeed truth, my father is running towards me in this cloud of dust.
And not only is he running but he is calling out my name, he is calling me son, he is calling me what I have been given as birthright. And I fall weeping to the ground, surrounded by the shame of what I have done, broken in my heart and soul for the way that I have disgraced his name and our family, and desiring that he will not send me away but have mercy. I wait in a huddled mass on the ground to await him sending me away. There is no other explanation for him meeting me so far from home.
It takes a moment to register, after the dust has settled around me, after the sounds have returned to normal. I realize that my father is quite near, he has stopped running, I am bowed in his presence. and then I feel it. His arms around me. My father is holding me, and he is crying. Weeping, crying out my name and holding me close. And my mind can’t comprehend it and i struggle to blurt out what I’ve come to prepared to say…Father, Master, please don’t call me your son. Please, if you knew what I had done…please just give me grace and make me like one of your servants. i am not worthy of your sonship anymore. And in the midst of my tirade, his tears fall faster and his fingers move to quiet my lips and he speaks a wondrous truth into my ears.
As he helped me to stand, as he wrapped his arms around me, as he looked me full in the face, ‘You are my SON, what’s lost has been found, what was broken has been redeemed…’ As we walked and I shared what had taken place on my journey, making sure he knew how unworthy I was, He looked me full in the face with eyes of grace and stated time and again until my heart heard its truth ‘you are forgiven.’
Upon reaching the home, a new robe and sandals were given to me, precious gifts of protection and honor from my father. A meal was prepared in my honor, something which I couldn’t begin to fathom could ever be mine. And there was great rejoicing in my return. I had turned my back on my father, I had insulted him and left him to pursue my own way, and after all that, after what I had become…he took me back, he reconciled me to Himself and restored me to sonship.
friends…your father awaits your return as well. He looks for you with eyes searching the horizon, calling out your name, seeking your return into his embrace. Walk the road homeward.