The Long Way Home (Josiah Lair)

The Long Way Home (Josiah Lair)

When I think about redemption, I personally relate to the parable of the Prodigal Son the most, so I thought it would be beneficial to take a fresh look at that story.

We will be taking an inside look into what the son may have been thinking during his travel back home, as well as how he may have felt upon his return.

For those unaware of the story it is found here in the Bible: Luke 15:11-32. It is a longer passage, so I will paraphrase a bit and quote specific parts of it as needed.

The story begins with a son coming to his father asking for his inheritance in advance (before his father was dead) in order to leave home and live a life he decided would be better to live. The father grants his son’s request and lets him go, even though it was difficult.

The son then leaves with his inheritance, goes far away from home (it is easier to misbehave away from your loved ones after all!), and then proceeds to squander his newly acquired wealth until he is left with nothing. He becomes homeless, works as a slave, and eats the leftovers of the pigs he is left to care for in order to survive.

It is during this rock bottom moment the son has the epiphany it would be better to try going back home as a servant to his father, instead of staying where he was any longer. At least there he would be home around those he was familiar with and no longer in a foreign land where he knew no one anymore (when the wealth and fun go away, so do the friends found with those things).

‘17 “Humiliated, the son finally realized what he was doing and he thought, ‘There are many workers at my father’s house who have all the food they want with plenty to spare. They lack nothing. Why am I here dying of hunger, feeding these pigs and eating their slop? 18 I want to go back home to my father’s house, and I’ll say to him, “Father, I was wrong. I have sinned against you. 19 I’ll never be worthy to be called your son. Please, Father, just treat me like one of your employees.”’

20 “So the young son set off for home.

The verse then immediately jumps to the father seeing the son from a distance and running to meet him. I would like to pause before that moment and explore the in between if you will. I feel like we have all been at this in between before. Perhaps you are currently there.

The road to redemption is hardly ever easy, at least it feels that way while we are walking there. If you are like me, your footsteps will be heavy with guilt and shame causing the journey to be much harder than it is. We have been humbled and brought low after all. We have been a witness to the depths of our own depravity and lack the capability to see ourselves in the light of love anymore. Like the son, we may see some sense in a better life ahead, but we could never fathom returning to our former glory. How could it ever be so?

Instead, we come up with a story to tell those at home in order to soften the blow of our return. We recite it over and over until we have it exactly right because in our broken and fragile state, we could never feel worthy to be home again. We keep our head bowed low in disgrace because we have no other choice.

No matter the actual distance from where we left to arriving home again, it always feels to take much longer due to all the unnecessary weight we put on ourselves.

'From a long distance away, his father saw him coming, dressed as a beggar, and great compassion swelled up in his heart for his son who was returning home. So the father raced out to meet him. He swept him up in his arms, hugged him dearly, and kissed him over and over with tender love.

21 “Then the son said, ‘Father, I was wrong. I have sinned against you. I could never deserve to be called your son. Just let me be—’

“The father interrupted and said, ‘Son, you’re home now!’

22 “Turning to his servants, the father said, ‘Quick, bring me the best robe, my very own robe, and I will place it on his shoulders. Bring the ring, the seal of sonship, and I will put it on his finger. And bring out the best shoes you can find for my son. 23 Let’s prepare a great feast and celebrate. 24 For this beloved son of mine was once dead, but now he’s alive again. Once he was lost, but now he is found!’ And everyone celebrated with overflowing joy.

This is such a beautiful picture, especially to the brokenhearted. Even before the long journey is over, the father runs to meet the son and greets him with an overwhelming love. Imagine how much a shock that must have been! Like suddenly being swallowed up in arctic waters. We try our best to catch our breath when we realize what has happened. We stumbled over our carefully crafted words just to be wonderfully interrupted by the reality that we are once again home.

Then in disbelief we stand by as our Father gathers everyone around to celebrate our return. Instead of coming back with the slim hope of possibly being tolerated back home, we are lavished with gifts, restored to our former glory, and surrounded by joy. What we could never have imagined, is happening before our very eyes.

It is extremely difficult to accept this as reality. It takes time for it all to sink into our psyche. We will protest. We may even try to reject it all and accept only what we feel we deserve. Our Father will have nothing to do with that though and insists on loving us anyway! He is just so happy we came back home. Nothing else really matters to Him.

The story goes on to talk of the other son who stayed home with the father. This son refuses to come celebrate his brother’s return and is indignant about the entire thing. Like the prodigal, this son also holds the belief his brother is not worthy of anything his father has to offer. He goes so far as reminding his father of all the brother had done against him. He tries to help his father see reason and understand just how ridiculous the situation seems. Grace is illogical after all, and I hope we do not miss out on its magnitude as this older son did!

I love the father’s response, and we should do our best to wrap our minds around what he had to say.

31 “The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me by my side. Everything I have is yours to enjoy. 32 It’s only right to celebrate like this and be overjoyed, because this brother of yours was once dead and gone, but now he is alive and back with us again. He was lost but now he is found!’”

How sweet it truly is to have once been dead and gone, only to be brought back to life and set free! How much sweeter that our return is also greatly celebrated!