We are in our last week in crowd-sourcing a new direction in youth ministry. Start here and play along. And check in at week’s end for a little something extra.
In all my mixed emotions during my return home, I have practiced it over and over, but I have yet to actually say it aloud. I am still stunned by vivid images of my wild-eyed father racing toward me, which rendered me unable to speak at that moment. I am still thrown off by my brother’s response, which seemingly longed to make the whole day about him. Then there was all the household staff scurrying about… but what I have to say, and must say, is not for them.
At the end of this very long day, I kneel before my father. The surprise races across his face. I recite the words I have scripted in my head, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and you. I no longer deserve…”
My words are interrupted by his reaction, and I look at my father. For the umpteenth time this day, his eyes quickly become overflowing oceans of salty tears. With one hand, he clasps roughly and deeply into my shoulder blades. If he would move his hand just an inch it would throttle my entire body, shaking me to my very core. This very gesture carries an entire unspoken lecture in it, one which insists that I never put myself, or him, or anyone of us through a similar experience again.
His other hand reaches towards my face. For the briefest of seconds, I think he might slap me, something that, despite all the misbehaviors of my life, he has never ever done to me. Yet, his hand gently, lovingly caresses my cheek, as he had often done cradling me off to sleep as a newborn.
I slightly recompose myself and choke out my rehearsed words. “… I no longer deserve to be called your son.” His response is something he has spoken throughout the day to everyone and anyone within earshot. Yet it feels as if I am hearing it for the first time.
“My son,” Father says, “Celebrate with me.” I wince as his hand presses slightly deeper into my shoulder. I am now aware that the hand that grazes my check is now wet with my own tears as well. He continues, “My son was lost and now you are found. His leaving caused us all to die a little bit, but your return has brought us to new life.”
I will forever work toward earning this embrace that has celebrated me home.
For Discussion: What are the relationships that are vital towards making faith and connection to church “stick?” Please comment below with your critique, clarifications, and responses. <image source>