"How’s life," I asked my friend, a college sophomore.
"It’s ok I guess. Kind of tough at times. It’s scary out there."
I appreciated his honesty. Only a couple of years before he had been a standout high school athlete, a class favorite, a popular personality. Life was very different for him now, though. In only two years of college he changed majors and universities. He also left the spiritual orientation of his parents and entered the college party scene.
What happened? He told me. He was scared. He was out of his local element. Though his parents’ standards and rules were a bit confining, they did provide structure and orientation for him. Away from home and his parents’ influence, the structure and guidance receded, leaving him standing on his own. He simply wasn’t ready for that level of responsibility.
I’ve known this boy for years and I think that as he matures he will grow out of the dislocation and aloneness he is feeling now, and will assume the morals and spiritual outlook of his parents. I hope he will. I base my belief on another story of a boy a lot like him.
A young man born into a wealthy family grew dissatisfied with his home situation. He told his dad, "I don’t want to wait for you to die. I want my inheritance now."
We can only imagine the pain that must have gripped this father’s heart as he looked deep into the eyes of his son and saw the discontent, the yearning for excitement, the lostness. The dad knew what was going to happen, but he couldn’t stop it. If he spoke he probably said something like, "Good bye son. Remember."
But the boy didn’t remember. In fact, the boy forgot at least three things. One, he forgot who he was. He was the son of a good man who cared for his family and provided for their needs. From what we know, he wasn’t abandoned or abused. He was honored as a son. He had identity.
Two, he forgot where he was from. He was from a family that was successful and prominent in the community. As a hardworking man the dad was respected, and this respect would be passed on to the sons. This boy had a foundation.
Three, he forgot where he was going. Because the son was born into a family that provided him with an identity and a foundation, he also had a future. He would help with the family estate. Even though the older son would receive much of the inheritance, the younger son would still be gifted with a portion of the dad’s holdings, a respected place in the community, and the opportunity to provide well for his own family. Ah, what a future lay ahead of him!
But the son forgot it all: who he was, where he was from, and where he was going. Because he forgot these important aspects of his life, he wandered from home into a world that is tough and scary. The pursuit of pleasure dulled any pain of conscience, but soon this pursuit gave way to the humiliation of poverty and want. Loneliness, hunger and guilt gnawed at him until they chewed right through his pride. Then he remembered.
He remembered who he was, where he was from, and where he was supposed to be going. Then he went home. There he was greeted by his father who cried, "This son of mine is home!" as he ordered the celebration to begin (Luke 15:11-24).
I pray my friend will find his way home, too. I think he has just forgotten his identity, his foundation and his future. He is searching for them futilely right now, looking for meaning in all the wrong places. But when the loneliness and spiritual hunger gnaws at him long enough, he will lift his head in awareness and say, "I will set out and go back to my father."
That is my prayer for my friend, and for all the young people in that terribly difficult period of transition. I pray that they will remember, and come home.
Happy Independence Day! Thanks to all those who have served.