Rembrandt. The Return of the Prodigal Son. Hermitage Museum.
Our true home is in God, yet we continue to run away in a futile search for a place of belonging. The further we run, the more faintly we hear His love call and the more entangled we become in the manipulations and power games of the world. Caught in a web of unfulfilled needs and wants, we feel victimized, fearful, anxious, and depressed. We begin to wonder if anyone really cares or if life has any meaning at all. Will we accept this rejection from the world that imprisons us, or will we choose to return and claim our true freedom as God’s beloved? Our journey home begins when we finally come in touch with the truth that we were born out of Love and were created to live in and offer that Love to others. Everything is secondary to this great hope. We no longer need permission from the world to live our lives. We are free to rise from the ashes of our poor choices and start walking towards home—away from the desolation of the world.
The distance between turning around and arriving home is our life’s journey. The journey is hard, and we all stray from the path, but we do not all return, so it needs to be traveled wisely and with discipline. We set our compass to True North and step forward in faith and trust with an open heart and open mind, leaving regret behind. When we inevitably veer from the path, we pay attention and catch ourselves, then without judgment, trusting that nothing is wasted, we choose to leave the negative place and walk out of the darkness. Tragically, some set off in confidence but choose to detour too far from the path, telling themselves that they will come back further down the road, hardening their hearts more and more to the searching call of the Shepherd—until they look back and can no longer find the path. They are lost to themselves and God.
Jesus makes it clear that the way home is the way of a newborn child listening always and intently for its mother’s presence, clinging to her in deepest trust. Becoming a child of God is living towards a second innocence, simplicity, and purity that can only be reached through deliberate choices, walking the narrow way, and keeping our eyes on the prize. We have the promise that we are not alone even in our darkest times. God is with us when we cannot see Him or even sense His presence, and therefore we have hope. We can cling to the tiniest shred of faith, and we can hold out the light of love to others even when we ourselves feel totally unloved and abandoned.
It is well to remember that feelings always follow choices. If we continue to act only on what we feel, we will stay stuck. Fear will paralyze us, but fear is a lie of the mind. God is Love, and Love casts out fear.1 We no longer have to be slaves to the darkness. The world has brutalized our thought processes, but we now know that we can literally rewire our brains by the practice of refusing negative thoughts and choosing positive thoughts and emotions instead.2 We can return to the path and live what we know to be the truth rather than by what we are feeling at any moment. Choice by choice, small step by small step, we learn to reclaim trust in the Love that destroys all fear and empowers us to persevere in hope.
In prayer, we reawaken and reclaim our ability to hear God’s eternal love call. Prayers of praise and adoration help us keep our eyes on the goal. But most importantly, our prayers point to the real and powerful presence of the Divine Spirit of Jesus with us, our never-failing guide, Who strengthens us for the journey, Who redeems all our choices, and Who leads us out of the darkness into the light and life of Home.
Dear friend, on the path coming home. My ears are no longer my own, The sweetest of voices entered through them And pierced to the depths of my soul. Dear friend, on the path coming home. Press in, press in, oh, press in Your ear ever close to the Source. You will hear, though you still may be sleeping His voice gently awakening within. You will know with a knowing beyond knowing How Love’s Spirit weaves the ways of your days, How Love’s fire kindles the twigs of desire, How Love’s longing becomes your belonging. BWS