"Come, let us return to the Lord... Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."
~ Hosea 6:1a, 3
As I prepare to bury my cousin John today, I have been meditating on the story of the prodigal son. It is a story about returning. Today I am reminded of the importance of returning over and over again. Throughout my life there have been times when I have drifted away from God, and I have to return. It's no wonder the two most common words in the Old Testament have to do with God's people "turning away," and "returning to," God.
Returning seems to be a life-long struggle. In the story of the prodigal son, I am continually moved by the fact that the father had no requirements of the son when he returned. His love was so total and unconditional that he simply welcomed his son home.
Yesterday my sister and I traveled back into the hills and "hollers," of southern Indiana and visited one of our childhood homes. We went up into the Morgan Monroe State Forest, and rediscovered the old logging road that we knew so well as kids. We remembered how different our lives were then, and how those years shaped us. The home we remembered was now overgrown by trees that were not present when we lived there, and the trees that we climbed were like us, "a memory."
They say that you can "never go home." For the prodigal son, returning home was all that he thought about doing once he had encountered the lowest moment in his life. Just as we struggle to find the "right way," to return to God, I suddenly realize that returning to God is simply about showing up.
My cousin John struggled his entire life to find acceptance. He faced challenges that I never knew existed in his life until I sat next to him as he was dying. He finally found a way to voice what had happened to him, how he felt, and why he did some of the things that he did. The addictions that he was a prisoner to, the times he sat in jail cells and how he had once loved someone, who ultimately broke his heart.
Death, for John, was the return of the prodigal son. It was the ultimate "returning," where he was met with unconditional love.
As a witness to his final months of life, and the moments where he took his last breathes, I watched and listened to the desire to be home. Today, along with a few family members, will be the completion of his "return."
I can remember him laughing just days before he died, "It's never too late, cuz. God is always ready for us to come home."
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.