The Prodigal Son wanted to go home, but he was sure he wouldn’t be accepted there after screwing up so badly. However, when he walked down the road to his father’s place, he was welcomed with open arms.
I never understood this story. It sounded like bad parenting. My son Mathias had to explain it to me “It’s a parable, Dad,” he reminded me. “He’s not a real father. It’s about how God or life will always take you back.”
Spiritual writer Stephen Mitchell called the Prodigal Son “one of the most healing stories ever told.” You might be on drugs, in prison, selling your body on the street. You might be a corporate lawyer, an oil executive, or be similarly lost, but you can always go home, and it’s not that hard. God will always take you back, because God is within you.
Remember this story is a fable. In our lives, home may not be a familiar physical place or people you know. You might never have felt at home in your family in the first place. That’s why the healing journey is necessary. It frees you from the boxes that life puts your soul in.
It’s Not That Hard
No matter how lost and desperate we are as individuals or as a society, I think there is a home for us. Look at the Prodigal Son. He was living in a pigsty, and it was all his own fault. Why would anyone take him back? Turned out that all he had to do was walk down the road.
An even more striking version of this allegory is the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy spends the whole book/movie trying to get home. She faces terrible dangers, following the advice of a charlatan wizard who couldn’t help her. It turns out that she had the ability to go home any time she wanted, just by clicking her heels together.
But the instructive thing is what happens when she gets home. Her journey had all been a dream. All she had to do was wake up.
All we have to do is wake up. My meditation teacher Marc says these stories are metaphors for the human condition. We went from being at home in our bodies, in Nature, on this planet, taken care of by the Tao or Mother Nature or God or however you call the world. We leave that home when we fall into dreams of flashy excitement in a City run by phony wizards. We can’t help it, since all of human society lives in that dream. The modern world is an illusion factory, churning out an endless torrent of irresistible dreams.
But the dream is killing us and our Home. And we’re not stuck in the dream. All we have to do is wake up. Meditation is a good way to wake up. Service to others is a good road home; so is spending time in nature.
“Only when you are sick of being sick
Can you be well.”
Only when we realize we are lost can we find our way home. Realizing it is the hard part. When we do, we are ready for Act 2. I wish you well on this phase of your journey.