Speaking of wandering in the wilderness.
Return of The Prodigal Son by Rembrandt
My pastor has that painting up in his office (okay not the real one…a print). Each week I go see him and each week I sort of glance at it. And silently say hello. It was the thing that put me at ease with him. When I asked about it at our first meeting. And he explained it not just in terms of content, but on spiritual and artistic value. It let me know this guy had the ability to see. That he sees the secret places that it seems so many people miss. People rush by and never look much beyond their noses or they’re so hammered into getting to the goal that they miss the trip. So many with so much to do and so little real understanding. The world is out there man. And I don’t mean just out there on a package deal vacation from Tiki Holiday or European Wanderers Deluxe Tours. I mean just out there. Just outside your door. You ever stood and watched leaves just move in the breeze (that’s one of my favorites) or have you ever just looked up and saw clouds, stars and the moon? It’s not silly, it’s not wasteful and pointless. Have you ever stopped and just for a few minutes taken off your shoes and stood in the grass? Without worrying about how you look or wondering about how many bugs and crawly things are there. Have you ever walked along and lightly touched things as you pass? I do that all the time, it’s sort of like looking but with your fingers. There is so much to see in the world and I wonder how much gets missed because we go from our front door to the front seat of our climate controlled vehicles and then right into work or the mall. This is God’s creation man! He put it here for us, to touch and feel. To see and to experience. Not just on your pre-arranged holiday or vacation with the kids. Everyday! Everyday you got to touch something, got to feel something or you die inside. I know. I know well. I spent so long nailing myself into the ground and staying away from life. Ruby my two year old. She saves me. Every time I see her reach down and grab a handful of dirt or stop to look at a lamppost. She takes the twenty plus years I spent hiding and pushes them aside and says “Come on Daddy the world is waiting”
And that brings me back to the Prodigal Son. See I am in every way the kid gone off and is now crawling back. I thought I was really living and experiencing life. With every drug I did and every woman I laid down with, every love, every fight and every crazy situation. I was living for experience. The wandering and the whole bum’s life. Made me think I knew things no one else did. Or that those who did know were fellow warriors and travellers like me. I romanticized the hell out of it.
And now here I am a full grown man. With nothing to show but scars, anxiety and a crazy-head full of memories I can’t even be sure of…A life lived in the mires of addiction and aloneness. Never really sharing an experience with anyone because I rarified my air so much that I was the only one in it. Even if you would stand beside me, you weren’t part of it.
Now I am seeing that the one thing I missed is gratitude. I mean Godly gratitude and gratitude to those who walked with me. My father who died of an over-dose but was still a good man, a confused and sometimes scary man, but a good man at heart. Did everything he could to give me a life that had some meaning, that had family and had a place, he taught me many things and he never stopped loving me, even when I was at my worst (though so was he) and he really did take us out into the world. I never was grateful, I never said thank you, I never got a chance to say that it meant the world to me. Instead I’d talk about the bad times, the addictions and the fights. And I’d never allow myself gratitude in the light of the great “Yeah but…”
And the women in my life, the ones I loved, the ones I still love, the ones I just tore a side off the night with. I never was grateful or appreciated them. I saw them as a means to an end. What end depended on my need of that moment. I never thanked them for their love, their time, their physical presence. In fact I expected more. Always more. That’s been the downfall of my whole life with them, they’d ask how much do you need and I without fail would tell them “All!” and never a moment of gratitude, never did I offer an equal share. I made grand gestures and flourished words and actions meant to dazzle. But who wants firecracker love? Light the fuse and bang it’s gone till it’s time for another one. I’d ask for undying and unbridled emotion and give roadside souvenirs in exchange.
God, man I don’t know where to begin. Except just to say I never really took stock in my relationship with God. Or paid heed to the fact that it’s a two way street. Like any relationship. Only this one is universal. I mean I have stood at the foot of mountains and my thought was “Hey cool…What’s next?” when it should have been “My God what a wonderful creation, what a gift. Thank you.” Or even more so when my daughter was born I stood in the delivery room and experienced the beginning of life and the gift of fatherhood and all I could think is ‘Oh God please don’t let me screw this up.’ When I maybe should have dropped to my knees and said “Thank you God for trusting me with this, for giving me this, for allowing me the honour of being the caretaker of your creation.”
Now I am starting to see. That I am truly blind.
If you read this and ever I have hurt you or I have taken for granted your life. I am sorry. Humbly and sincerely sorry. And even if I don’t personally know you. Thank you for your life. For taking a piece of your life to share mine. Me I’m just a man a banged up machine man. But with a little time, a little touch up and a fresh coat of paint I just may come out alright.
And like the Prodigal Son the journey has brought me home again. Humbled and ready to accept whatever may come. But on my shoulder rests God’s hand, my father’s hand and it tells me I don’t need to crawl or beg forgiveness. I just need to come home. That it’s okay. I am always loved.