Think you know this story by heart? I thought so too until last year when a week of guided prayer, based entirely in scripture, caused me to take another look at it.
The first things that stood out to me were the missing parts of the story. The prodigal son was in a far off land. He didn’t go hang out with a rough crowd on the wrong side of town. He skipped the country with his inheritance. I know what happened next – wild living, ending in disgrace and famine. Next thing I know, he wakes up, smells the pig wallow, and decides to throw himself on his father’s mercy – smart kid.
Now the part of this story that really intrigues me is the journey home. No hopping on Jet Blue for my boy. No, he has a long, hard road home. I don’t get to hear about that part of it. Why? Probably because if I am to see myself in this story, I need to be able to look at my own journey home.
How many times do you think he second guessed his decision on the road home? How many times do you think he tried to find other ways to survive on his own, only to end in failure? I know I would be thinking of anything and everything to avoid going home in disgrace, especially knowing big brother was there to rub my nose in it. I’ll come back to big brother in another posting.
The other piece of this that really stands out to me is this: when he finally makes it within sight of the estate, his father sees him while he is still a long way off and rushes out to meet him. The prodigal son goes through his rehearsed speech, declaring his unworthiness. His father barely hears him, calling to the servants to prepare a banquet, dress him in fine robes, and to put a ring on his finger. After walking all that way in the heat and dust, coming home in rags, exhausted, smelling of swine – was he relieved or ashamed by such an over-the-top greeting? And if you think about it, if the father rushed out to meet him while he was still a long way off, doesn’t it then stand to reason that the father and he walked home together?
I found myself surrounded by silence, wrapped in stillness, and embraced by peace. I rested in that silence, stillness, and peace until dawn. It still took me a long time to find my way back to the banquet of love and even longer to find my way to Reconciliation.
God didn’t wait for me to make it back to confess my sins or even to get myself to Mass. He rushed out to meet me where I was, kneeling on the floor of my living room, surrounded by the shattered pieces of my life, drowning in darkness, knife in hand, about to take my own life. He came the moment I called out for Him.
I was too blind to see that He had been beside me and within me all along, but I know now that He walks beside me and inside me. Most importantly, He will walk home with me, even when I forget the way.