It comes to this, then, after the grand theory of the apostle: The world exists for our education; it is the nursery of God’s children, served by troubled slaves, troubled because the children are themselves slaves—children, but not good children. Beyond its own will or knowledge, the whole creation works for the development of the children of God into the sons of God. When at last the children have arisen and gone to their Father; when they are clothed in the best robe, with a ring on their hands and shoes on their feet, shining out at length in their natural, their predestined sonship; then shall the mountains and the hills break forth before them into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid and the calf, and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. Then shall the fables of a golden age, which faith invented, and unbelief threw into the past, unfold their essential reality, and the tale of paradise prove itself a truth by becoming a fact. Then shall every ideal show itself a necessity, aspiration although satisfied put forth yet longer wings, and the hunger after righteousness know itself blessed. Then first shall we know what was in the Shepherd’s mind when he said, “I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly.”
by Stephen Carney
John Bradshaw wrote in his book Homecoming, “I know what I really want for Christmas. I want my childhood back. Nobody is going to give me that...I know it doesn't make sense, but since when is Christmas about sense, anyway? It is about a child of long ago and far away, and it is about the child of now. In you and me. Waiting behind the door of our hearts for something wonderful to happen.” He also said, “Children are natural believers-they know there is something greater than themselves.” I chose the title for this before I thought of Bradshaw's book, but then something reminded me of that 20th century book. Bradshaw wrote for those people who had lost their childhood and were looking to come home again. He expresses in a secular way the longing of all of us for what MacDonald wrote about one hundred years before. It is innate in us to long to come home again, but home isn't going back, it is going forward. Going back would be to return to what caused you to leave or lose your childhood. You would end up back where you started.
The prodigal did not go back to where he began; rather, he returned to his father's house from a place of brokenness. He came in “as is” condition and not as he used to be before he left. God doesn't ask us to go backwards and start over, he only asks that we run to him, to fall into love and care. It is his love that will heal us, not fixing the past. The past is to be forgiven, and love does that. The past is to be kept behind us, and with the Apostle Paul we say, “Forgetting those things that are behind, I press on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Home is forward and not backward. I think this is important, because many, including myself, have wasted a great deal of time getting home by trying to go back the way we came and fixing what happened. This doesn't mean we shouldn't mark our steps and see how we got to where we are now, nor do we ignore those painful memories that have come our way. Many times I have led people in conversational prayer, where we invited Jesus to walk down the hall of our memories and to see them together with us, to tell us what he sees in that moment, and then we ask him to heal that memory. We do this because these memories are not in the past but the present. There is a remarkable verse in Ecclesiastes 3:15 that reads, “That which has been is present even now and that which shall be has already been and God requires what has passed by.” (KJV) The past is in the present; in fact, everything exists in the present, and that means that today we can heal the past because it is here, and Jesus is here, and all unfinished business is finished in Christ.
So we start now, right where we are, and begin the journey to the “Abundant Life.” It is here waiting for us to lay hold of it. He is here waiting for us to come over the hill homeward. There is a party waiting for us, a celebration for our homecoming. For the most healing thing there is for any of us is not to be found in fixing what we did--most of that lies beyond our control, anyway. Rather, our healing lies in our coming home, after we have blown it, and discovering that we are still loved. Not only loved, but received and rejoiced over! That is healing, that is homecoming, and that is what our hearts are longing for. For none of us will ever know that we are loved till we have been a disappointment to those around us, and we discover that we are still wanted and cherished. But we don't ever get home till we turn from our stubborn clinging to having our way, from nourishing our hurts, to run to the Father fall into to grace.
The Father is waiting...the doors are open...the fire is lit...dinner is on the table...homecoming awaits.