Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Departure, ink drawing by Tobias Mayer, 2022

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
Luke 15:11-13

The parable of the prodigal son is one that has always touched me deeply, more so as I age and reflect on my life, too often not well lived. It is this story that I quote when describing my own journey to the place I am today, a professional in the IT world, an aspiring therapist, "in Sheffield, in love, inspired."1 Like the younger son in this story, I traveled far from home, geographically and emotionally, living a self-centered, hedonistic life for many years until overwhelmed I would return home. Unlike this story's protagonist though it was not a one time thing for me, and I know for many others whose paths have crossed mine on such journeys that time and time again we fall from grace, resorting to our own will, moving away from love, kindness, care—away from God. It often starts well, it rarely ends that way, for me too often in rehabilitation centres and hospitals, for many others, my friends and acquaintances, in prisons, institutions and death.

It is adventure that draws many away, perhaps, but there is also a fear of facing up to who we really are and what God expects of us. Getting caught up in the demands of the secular life is a temptation hard to resist at times, offering as it does so many ways to escape the mundanities of existence, the ordinariness we see others experiencing. Drugs, alcohol, beautiful people, sex, acquisitions of one kind or another, these become ideals to strive for, false gods to worship. As writer and pastor Henri Nouwen expresses it,

"The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in 'a distant country'. It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up."2

But there are also much smaller, less dramatic departures from the path that all of us experience at one time or another, as we feel pulled towards comfort, an easy life, one that doesn't require too much thinking or reflection. A departure can be as simple an act as looking away from the beggar on the street, dropping litter, or posting an indignant comment on social media. Following any departure we always have two choices: to justify or to return. Interestingly justification takes far more work, can become very complicated, and inevitably deepens the hurt, yet this is the path often chosen. Return is simple but requires humility, a quality quite alien to a culture of divisive self-righteousness. It is taking me the latter years and decades of my life to find my way back to grace, and in the climate of today it is more challenging than ever.

1 Journey, 2016
2 The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, by Henri J.M. Nouwen (Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd, 1992)