With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” (1942)

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“When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands."’ So he got up and went to his father.”

Luke 15:14-20a

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In the middle of our parable, the younger son decides to return home. But why?

If you answered that he squandered his inheritance, you are correct. But not completely.

As it turns out, the younger son encountered a series of unfortunate events, each of which contributed to his reluctant homecoming. He squandered his inheritance (v. 13), there was a famine in the land (v. 14), and no one helped him (v. 16). The younger son was not just in need of repentance; he needed recovery, and he needed reconciliation. He needed everything he couldn’t find in “a land far away.”

To return to what he had rejected, however, was complicated. Would he be welcomed back? Was there enough love and grace left for a wayward son? Or was his future bound to be determined by the mistakes of his past?

The younger son took a risk by hoping what was lost could still be found. The father, refusing to accept his own loss, risked leaving his home and heart open for such a return.

Dave McNeely

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God, thank you for keeping your heart open to me, no matter how many mistakes I’ve made. Give me the strength to return to you, no matter how long the journey is or how many times I must make it. Amen.

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As you go, may your heart be forever anchored in the welcoming heart of God.

As you go, may you experience the joy of love rushing out to meet you on your path.

As you go, may the future paved by forgiveness lead you in the path of everlasting joy.

Dave McNeely

Dave McNeely currently serves as the Faith & Justice Scholars Coordinator and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, TN, where he is a member of First Baptist Church. He is married to Mandy and has two children, Christopher and Noah.

I Surrender All

Mark Hayes

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