Recent news, and stories that hit closer to home, have me thinking of the prodigal. So many of our worldly troubles lead us to drift, or run, or hide, to escape. Our minds or hearts or histories whisper the need to go. And some of us follow. And some of us, left behind in the cloud of questions, chase. If you are chasing a prodigal, I see you. I feel the intense pounding in your chest every time the phone rings. I sense the tension of each hair follicle when someone asks the innocent question, yet? I know the fear when the prodigal is away and you don’t even have an address. You consider driving in the dark scouring parking lots, but you are paralyzed by the vastness of possibility. I understand the void of a prodigal heart, which may share a dinner table, or a bed, or a life, but the distance is palpably wide.
We have just read Cry, The Beloved Country in AP, and I am struck in every reading by the protagonist’s valiant search for his family members in a violent and bitter Johannesburg. And in the finding of each loved one, his inability to save them. His wrestling with God over the release, His faith for the future, His heavy hold on restoration. I am left feeling emptied and filled, a part of the journey to reach the prodigals.
And really, we are all chasing prodigals. Maybe not our children, or spouses, or siblings, but someone. A friend who is traveling a dead end road but has closed herself off from communication. A coworker we watch self-destruct day after day, but we feel paralyzed by a distance imposed by cultural propriety. And we follow at a safe distance, or watch from afar, but we feel powerless.
God is in the business of pursuing prodigals. Hearts that stray, minds that wander, feet that falter. He is not afraid to follow. There is no propriety that prevents Him from calling even those furthest from Him back to His fold. And as we run after those we love, we can be reassured by God’s faithfulness. He does not forget us. He does not become weary in His pursuit. Like the shepherd leaving the flock to find the one, so is God concerned for each of us.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. Psalm 139:9-12
If you feel like giving up, rest in assurance that God will not. If your prodigal does not return in the time or manner you have hoped, God already knows. He was with them all along. If you are the prodigal, you are not alone. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).