After the meeting I feel depleted, empty.
I return home to the house, the woodstove, the dog and cats,
the gerbils tucked together into a tight ball in their plastic tunnel. This internal absence follows me and I try to
open my hands, my heart to it. I feel
lost and far from home, not the physical concrete place with the smell of
animals and the constant tumbleweeds of shed hair, but the place inside of
I pile wood on the fire in the wood stove and reheat old
coffee which I forget to drink before trading Chuck Taylor’s and jeans for wool
socks and leggings. I roll out the yoga
mats and cue up a fifteen minute video, hoping to find a pathway home through
the stretching out long of legs and limbs and torso. The little cat winds between my legs, leaving
a trail of fur in her wake, then throws herself at my feet, purring. Bent, with my palms to the mat, I rub her
ears, her neck, and her eyes close in pleasure.
I follow the routine.
Opening, bending, breathing, moving as I am led until, at last, I’m seated
on the mat, the video complete. The
practice fails to work its magic this time. I’m closer to home, but still carrying a
It’s then I think of the prodigal son, his leaving and the
dissolution that precedes his staggering return.
Every day, I think, that’s me.
In the parable, the younger son traveled to a distant land
and “squandered his property in dissolute living.” I used to think the point of the parable was how the prodigal son lost himself, but
now I see the heart of the matter isn’t how
he’s lost, but that he is lost. Like the older brother who imagines his
brother “devoured” the father’s property with “prostitutes,” I imagined
dissolute living referred to carnal sins, hedonism in all its various forms.
And maybe it does.
But a quick look at an online dictionary tells me
“dissolute” comes from the Latin root for the word “dissolve.” We know the son’s inheritance has been
squandered and dissolved, but the prodigal’s turning point has little to do with
money lost or sins committed and everything to do with identity.
“But when he came to himself,” the story goes.
A Jewish boy, feeding pigs in a foreign land – these
external characteristics serve to communicate how very lost this boy has
become. And what identity is it that
he’s lost? It’s not his identity as one
who does or does not sin, but rather his identity as one who has a place of
belonging. The boy’s return to himself
is intertwined with a return to his father or – as Parker Palmer puts it, the
question (or realization) of “who am I” leads, inevitably to the question (or
realization) of “whose I am.”
It’s not so much that the prodigal sins, but that he spends
his very soul, allowing himself to be dissolved of identity or, more clearly,
this is the way in which he sins. It’s
not that his carnal sins don’t matter, but that they merely reflect an inward
And if this is the case, then yes, I am so very much like
Every day I wander dispensing my gifts as though through
their service I might gain some intangible thing – identity, respect, belonging,
maybe even also love. And sometimes in
that process I come dangerously close to losing the one thing Jesus says is
most valuable of all – soul, spirit, identity or true self. Richard Rohr refers to it as the “Immortal
Diamond.” A diamond never meant to be
spent, traded or squandered, no matter how great the reward.
The good thing about realizing you are in fact the prodigal
is in that very moment of recognition lies the invitation to return. The very awareness of lostness carries within
it, like a seed, the memory of belonging.
Here is where the spiritual disciplines begin, practices
which over centuries have been affirmed to help us find the path toward
home. The prodigal is not only one who
is lost, but one who returns.
The most blessed thing about being a
prodigal over and over again, which is the case for each and every one of us – is the opportunity it affords us to become experts in the journey toward home.
Blessed are those whom God allows
to wander near and far, for they
the seekers, the finders
who travel over stream and mountain
hunting out the
paths that lead toward
home. Blessed are the lost for they
shall be found. Blessed are those who
walk the path toward home. Toward them
the loving father runs.
* * *
We finally have a #SmallWonder button! If you want to use it, simply copy the image, then add it to your post or sidebar with a link to www.afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com.
Are you or do you have writer friends local to the PA, Maryland, New Jersey area? If so, would you consider attending or sharing the information about the upcoming writing retreat to be held here at the farm house? You can find more details under the Writing Retreat tab.
Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.
What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?
That’s my proposal – that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.
You’re invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder. Don’t worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right – you’re welcome to come as you are.
While you’re here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.