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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

A Sort of Homecoming

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

"Do you have what it takes?"

"I honestly don't know," Jason replied, as he stared out at the vast expansiveness of what he thought was the rest of his life. "I can only hope so."

Peering out at the bright but icy blue lights of a city that comprised his current environment below, Jason could only wonder what the next day, even the next moment for that matter might bring.

He was lost, so lost. Not in the physical sense that a roadmap could serve but in a way only another lost soul could understand.

At the moment Lucas seemed to be that person. They had met earlier that day in some lonely, forgotten diner that only a truck driver could love. Over several cups of black as tar coffee, Jason told him that he had arrived in town with starry-eyed dreams and a suitcase overflowing with hope just two years earlier. Now all he had was a mountain of unpaid bills, his father's broken heart, and whatever faint trickle of optimism he had, it had left him long ago.

"There was never any question that this is what I wanted for my life," Jason lamented, as they surveyed the valley below. "I took all of the steps that I thought I needed to take. I prepared, I studied, I practiced. I even took lessons. I honed my craft. And now I don't know where I belong. I lived my entire life for this opportunity and now what do I have to show for it?"

As he spoke, Lucas strummed a worn, weather beaten acoustic guitar with a sticker attached to it that was indiscernible in the faint, faded moonlight.

"Do you think there is anybody out there?" Lucas questioned, as he fumbled with a tune that seemed vaguely familiar to Jason. "I mean, whenever I come up here just to sit and play I always wonder if each one of those lights represents a person or are they just lights."

"I don't know and I really don't care right now," Jason suddenly snapped, pulling his knees up under his chin. "What do I do now? I just can't go home. People will think I have failed so miserably. Think ... what am I saying? I am a failure. And the money."

"Where is home if you don't mind me asking?" interrupted Lucas.

"Not important," responded Jason, turning his head to shield the tears that were beginning to well within him.

Home was far, far from here. Jason had wandered away from a life that could be best described as idyllic. Raised in a fine Christian home, he knew that God was there for him in all circumstances (at least that is what his parents had told him). Despite being in church twice on Sunday and a few times in between throughout his youth, Jason felt no indelible bond to the man his family called Father.

Why couldn't he have been more like his older brother Jeff? He had been content to stay home and work in the family business rather than test the turbulent waters of fate. But not Jason, oh no. He had dreams. Dreams so unquenchable that he wouldn't be satisfied until he reached the pinnacle of his self-imposed success. So, in a Cleaver-esque kitchen table deal, Jason had persuaded his father to allow him to take his entire college fund and invest it in a future that he would soon find did not exist.

He was in the bright lights of the big city only a short time before his passionate drive for success became a world of self-imposed excesses. The money his father had given him in good faith was gone within months. Just gone. Small problems quickly became insurmountable. Nasty little habits were soon out of control. And this dream. What about this dream? It seemed everyone had the same self-fulfilling prophecy and would do anything to fulfill their insatiable pursuit of it.

Jason was broke. Penniless. Worse still, he was a broken man. He had nothing to latch onto except a suitcase his father had given him before he left home. His father told him at that time that he was to fill that suitcase with all of his experiences so that he could share them with family when he returned. It now served as his unofficial "official" residence as he wandered the streets trying to find a solution to what he had told Lucas a few hours ago was "a sudden downturn of events in my life." That was a brave way of saying he was desperate.

"So are you going to wait for the rain to stop or are you going to do something about it?" asked Lucas, as Jason shook himself from his self-pity for a moment.

"What are you talking about?" asked Jason, as he looked to the heavens checking for moisture. "There is nothing in the sky but stars tonight. There is not even a hint of rain."

As the last syllable resonated from Jason's mouth, Lucas began to pluck out the same tune that had seemed familiar to him just a few minutes earlier.

"What is that blasted song you are playing anyway?"

Lucas just peered back at Jason, shook his head and smiled.

"It's a song that I like to play when I'm hurting. It comforts me. Let's me know that He is there. I remember one time I was hitch hiking cross-country the summer I got out of college. And there were times as I was walking out west that I just felt so alone. So unworthy. I was just so empty. Physically, emotionally, you name it, I was just tapped out. And whenever I felt this way that summer and anytime since for that matter, I just play this song. It clears my mind and just puts everything in perspective. You know, it lets me know He is there."

Jason shook his head in disbelief. "How can a song make you feel so safe and secure? And who is he?"

"It is not the song but the spirit that flows through it. Whenever I sing this I realize that sweet Jesus is bringing me back home."

Jason now stood at the precipice. He could turn back to face the problems that were swallowing him up or he could pursue this conversation further. He knew where their discussion was headed but for whatever reason he felt an all-consuming desire to pursue it. But he didn't think he should. Doing so would unravel everything he had worked so hard for. Living his dream, seeking independence from his father, proving that he was better than his brother. Jason paused to reflect on where he stood both as a man and where his life was headed. Suddenly, he turned back to face the predicament he currently found himself in.

"So, I guess you are going to tell me about Jesus now aren't you?" Jason hissed. "My parents did this my entire life until I left home. To be quite honest, I haven't missed that diatribe a bit."

"Why?" questioned Lucas.

Silence. Jason didn't have an answer. He peered out across the twinkled horizon searching for an informed, philosophically sound response. None came. Deep within him, Jason knew Lucas had something that he desperately needed. Embarrassed, ashamed, and dumbfounded by his inadequacy, he began to weep.

Sensing the urgency of the moment, Lucas laid his guitar on the hard-scrabbled ground and placed a tender, comforting hand on Jason's shoulder. He began to sing the words to the aforementioned song that he had played so many times before in his times of emptiness, loneliness, and despair.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me,

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

 

Lucas sang the remaining six verses softly but with emotion. When the last strains of this beautiful hymn had drifted down the valley, Jason turned to face him. He was trembling. Before he had a chance to speak, Lucas spoke in a commanding but gentle voice.

"Do you believe?

"I always have," Jason somehow managed to utter through his emotional sobs. "I just lost my way somehow."

"Well, you need to go home," replied Lucas, as he reached down to pick up his guitar. When he did, the sticker that was so undecipherable before, now shined brightly in the pale moonlight. It was a simple phrase yet its impact was undeniable. It said "I Am".

Jason lingered on the phrase for several days as he stumbled over his journey home. He was physically ragged and his clothes were threadbare but for the first time he had a true purpose.

Not knowing exactly what to say when he arrived, Jason played and replayed potential greetings over and over in his mind. He sifted through the spectrum of potential ice breakers everything from "Hi Dad" to a step by step description of his season of woe. In the end he decided to just let this newfound spirit within him be his guide.

Finally the moment arrived. He stood at the gate, next to the mailbox baring his family's last name. Staring at the old gabled farmhouse in the distance that he vowed he would never call home again, Jason began a slow walk up the graveled, winding driveway. Soon his slow, unsure steps became a saunter, then a jog, eventually a sprint. As he ran the final steps toward his fate, the words finally came to him that he should say when meeting his father face to face.

" Dad, I mean, I probably shouldn't call you that after all this time. Sir, I am Jason. I used to be your son. I know I have shamed you beyond repair. Look I don't have any money, I don't have a job, and I haven't eaten in three days. If you could just let me stay out in the barn I could work as one of your hired men. You know, drive the tractor, clean out the stalls, anything you need me to do. I just need a chance."

However, before he could say anything he was met by the man he used to call Father. Ashamed of what he had done to this poor soul, Jason looked down at his weather worn feet resting on the equally weary earth.

Before he could recite his planned speech, his father swept up Jason into his arms with such a great deal of emotional fervor that both began to cry and laugh at the same time.

"Jason, I can't believe it is you," exclaimed his father, squeezing him even tighter. "My son, you have come home. I never thought you would but you did! I can't tell you how much I love and have missed you. We must celebrate. Let's go find your mother."

As they turned toward the house to do just that, there stood Jason's older brother Jeff, glaring at them incredulously with arms folded, while blocking their path.

"Dad, you are such a naïve, dim-witted idiot," growled Jeff. "Don't you know what your "boy" has been up to? I'll tell you what he has been doing. He took your hard-earned cash that you gave him in good faith and blew it on prostitutes, strip joints, and snorting it up his nose. And now you want to celebrate his return? It would be better if he just left. We don't need anymore disgrace in this family. You are a complete moron if you have a party in his honor."

His father studied him for a moment, wondering where he had failed in raising his seemingly heartless elder son.

"Jeff, you are completely missing the point here. Don't you realize that Jason had fallen off the face of the earth. We haven't heard from him in over two years. All those sleepless nights thinking we had lost him forever. I was seriously beginning to think he was dead. Well, as you can see, he is definitely not dead and he certainly isn't lost anymore. For that we must celebrate. It isn't every day that your dead son comes back to life and offers to live in your barn. Jason was lost but now he is found! Never forget that."

Are you lost? As human beings we are all given a free will to conduct our lives in any way we see fit. It is important to remember that regardless of what we may have done in our lives that is thought to be disgraceful to God, His love is constant, patient, and welcoming.

He will search for us and give us opportunities to respond such as the one Jason was given, but He will never force us to come to Him. Just like Jason's father, God waits patiently for us to realize that His love and invitation for redemption are always there. We need only to accept this gift and receive Jesus Christ as our personal savior.

As for the Jeff's of the world who find it difficult to accept people due to their past, I must report that sadly, some believers will hold you under suspicion. That is wrong, very wrong.

As Christians, we are to welcome those who have led sinful lives in the past with great rejoicing. It is our duty to provide the encouragement you need to grow in Jesus Christ.

It says in the Gospel of John that, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12)

Quite simply, this is an incredible opportunity. When you come to know God through His son Jesus Christ by acknowledging His death on the cross, you will find life in abundance. When you confess that Jesus Christ died for you, He will cleanse your heart and make it pure once again. You will have new life that is abundant and free.

Do not continue to live your life like Jason did before he met Lucas. Instead, consider making the same life changing decision that he made in deciding to finally accept Jesus Christ for who He is. Won't you come home? He is waiting with open arms.

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