Innately we never stop searching for love; the longing brings us home.
Their communion broken, driven from the presence of God and the home God had created for them, Adam and Eve’s life outside the garden was anything but blissful. They were not okay without God. Humanity would have to live in constant and continual neediness.
There is story in the book of Luke, about a wayward, rebellious son. The story opens with the younger of two sons demanding that his father give him his inheritance now. This is essentially to say, “I wish you were dead now, so I can have what is rightfully mine." Discontented in his situation, everything he had with his father and all that would be his one day wasn't good enough for the son.
He wanted more.
Unwilling to be patient and await the gift that would be one day be his, he took his newly acquired inheritance and set sail to a distant land to chase the desires deep within his heart. The scriptures tell us that he squandered all that he had in reckless living. Enticed away, in an effort to live in freedom and pursue what he believed would bring him fulfillment, the son lost everything. At that very time, a great famine swept through the land. The wandering son had nothing, and in complete desperation, he took a job far beneath his dignity, religion, and place in society. Working for a foreigner in a distant land, he would be responsible to feed the man's pigs.
While working in the fields in the heat of the day with nothing to fill his belly, hoping for some of the leftover food the pigs hadn't eaten and with nothing to quench his thirst, the son began dreaming of days past. He remembered who he once was and all that he had in his father’s house as one of his sons. Every need was fully met by his father. He began to smile, thinking back on all the memories; as a child, he was unable to hold his father's whole hand. With his small hand swallowed up in the bigness of his father's, he could only grip one finger and hold tight. He remembered his father's ring and the symbol that represented the seal of his family, as they walked the property sharing stories and overlooking all that his father had been blessed with. He remembered hearing his father’s deep tenor voice in his head, explaining that one day all this would belong to him and his brother. "Why?" the son asked. His father went on to explain that, simply because he was his father's son, all that his father had would be his. The son knew who he was because of who the father was. As he grew in age and stature, the son would watch how his father managed and looked over all he had. He watched closely how the father treated his servants with dignity and respect and how they cherished the father because of it. They would do anything for him without even the slightest grumble. The father made them feel as if they were part of the family. The father would teach the two sons how to work hard and join him in his work.
The son wakes to the reality of his fall.
He remembers the height from which he has fallen.
At rock bottom, the son remembers. He remembers that his father has more than enough, that even his servants are filled and there is plenty left. He knows home is his only option. He must return back to his father. His appetite more insatiable than before, his longing more evident, he sets out for home.
The longing brought him home.
"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."
According to daily routine, the faithful father made his rounds at dusk, making sure the daily work was wrapping up and preparations for tomorrow's labor were in place. It was intentional space created for his heart to reflect, commune, and thank God for all that He had provided. He ended his rounds at the high point on the front side of the property that overlooked the road leading up to the house. It was there every evening that he prayed for his youngest son. Most nights he lingered a bit longer, always hopeful that just maybe this could be the night his son returned. He often replayed the scene from that dreadful day the son voiced those hateful words, turned his back, and walked out. Nonetheless, the faithful father never stopped searching, hoping, waiting, weeping.
It was that hour of the evening, the sun just beginning to set. The father had finished his rounds for the evening and found himself in that familiar place, looking out, peering in the distance. After lingering for a few moments longer, the father breathed in deep and turned back toward the house. But this night, the longing felt heavier. After a few steps, he stopped. Turning back toward the high point overlooking the front of his property, he saw something far in the distance. Unable to clearly make out the silhouette in the dimly lit sky, he stepped closer. "I know that posture. I know that gait,” the father thought. He recognized the strut of the figure. He always told his younger son to stand up straight and stop hunching over. It was a bit of swagger mixed with poor posture.
What is that?
Could it be...?
Is that my...?
He couldn't finish his thoughts before he began to run. Overwhelmed with compassion and filled with joy, he rolled his robe up past his knees and ran toward his son. Who knows the last time the old man ran, but he couldn't stop, he was compelled to go to his son. While awkwardly running, so as not to trip over his rolled up robe, the father continually shouted, "My son! My son! My son is home!" in the deep tenor that the son knew so well. The son stopped in his tracks as his father ran toward him. He lunged, nearly tackling the wayward young man in a full embrace. Reminiscent of childhood, the father lifted the son into the air so his feet were no longer touching the ground beneath him. The prodigal felt his embrace and the kiss upon his cheek.
Overwhelmed, the son could not contain his brokenness. He broke at his father's feet. He wept, struggling to speak the words through the pain and tears.
"Father, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry... I'm no longer worthy to be your son. I’ve sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. I'm sorry. I've disgraced our family. I've disappointed you. I'm sorry."
"I am your father. You are my son. You are mine."
The soft yet strong timbre of the father’s voice was unmistakable.
"Son, you are home again."
But the father said to his servants,
'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.
And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.'
And they began to celebrate.
The faithful father rolled out the red carpet for his lost son. The father went to great lengths to remind his son of who he is. The son’s brokenness was met with provocative grace. "Servant? No. You are my son!" They stood at ground zero for what makes love possible. Desperation, repentance, return, and grace. Now humility sets in. The love of the father, was so deep that he let his beloved son go. He knew and trusted that love would be good enough to bring him home. The heart had become fertile for identity to set. The father gave his son a robe, a ring bearing the mark of the family, sandals, a fattened calf. "My son is alive. My son is home."
Outside of the garden, no longer beneath the creator’s wings of protection, where perfect provision met neediness, the man and the woman struggle. Eden still in their rear view mirror—with all of its memories, all of its perfection—felt so close, but it might as well have been an eternity away. There was no going back. They turned their backs on their creator, so they had to live with the consequences with every day that passed as the man and woman aged. As they started a family of their own, ebbing and flowing between struggle caused by sin and pleasure brought by grace, they would never stop longing for Eden. There would never be contentment apart from their God.
But the story doesn't end here.
God never stops pursuing His beloved.