Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Scandal of Grace


The young man drew doodles in the mud with a stick. Each line he drew disappeared in a second. He laughed at the irony of it all. Those lines were just like his life. Everything about him was superficial and never lasted.
Like the riches he had inherited from his father.
Yes. He was once rich.
But he was now drawing lines in stinking mud mixed with pig poop.
Another reason as to why he had found doodling interesting was the fact that he had nothing else to do. He could not stop to think about how hungry he was. It only made the hunger more painful.
He doodled a little faster. He did not want to see the reflection of his face in the mud. It reminded him of how thin and malnourished he now looked.
Nearby, the pigs snorted and fought for food. He looked at them. They looked much better than him, a rich man’s son. And here he was dying.
He tired of doodling in the mud. The mud stilled.
His face stared back at him. Suddenly, a longing for home hit him.
For the first time, he saw the foolishness of leaving his father and brother. He saw the futility of living life without his father’s love and protection. Looking around, he felt utter hopelessness embrace him. This was the edge of the world. One step from where he was and he would have stepped into oblivion.
His imagination conjured up the taste of well-done steak he had long forgotten. His dried, parched throat could not remember the beautiful sensation of having deep red wine flowing down it.
Warm tears ran down his cheeks.

Unbeknownst to the young man, one hundred miles away, an old man sat in a rocking chair on the front porch of his mansion. He was more distraught than the young man. He had everything he could ever want in this life. He was as rich as anyone can get. Servants obeyed him. Business associates respected him. The society bowed before him.
This man was the young man’s father.
Oh, that he could give anything to get back his son.
The day his son left many years ago was still fresh in his mind. It was like it had happened only yesterday.
The nightmare had begun when the son had come to the father with a humble request. “I would like my share of the inheritance, father.”
They were at the lake fishing. They actually didn’t need the fish. It was just a sport, a perfect excuse for father to be with son.
The father’s eyes narrowed. “Do you know what you are asking for, son?”
“Yes. I’ve thought about it for over a year now. I want to go and see the world for myself. I am tired of living on this estate and having everything done for me.”
“Don’t you like it here?” the father asked, concern etched in his voice.
“Of course I like it, but there must be something I am missing. I want to go and have some fun out there in the world.”
No amount of cajoling could stop the old man’s younger son. So the old man was forced to call his lawyer the next day. Everything was settled. The young son got his inheritance and off he went.
The sun was setting and its rays were making the sky look beautiful. But the old man did not see beauty. He saw a road that would lead his son back home one day. He kept rocking in the rocking chair as he let his day dream bring tears to his eyes.
But then he saw. Yes, his eyes were still filled with tears over the loss of his son, but he was very sure that what he saw in the distance was his son coming back home. He stood up from his chair and climbed down the porch steps so he could see clearly.
It was not the first time he had seen someone coming and thought it was his son. Many a times he had run out only to realise it was a stranger, or a guest, but not his son. He knew it was a disgrace. A person of his age and stature did not participate in the indignities of running.
Whoever this was that was coming to his home, he hoped it was his son, and as he had done all the other times, he broke out into a jog.
Then he ran.
As he drew closer, he started doubting his eyes. What he saw was a young lad – too young to be his son – in tatters. His hair was unkempt and his face was caked in mud.
The figure before him stopped.
He also stopped.
It dawned on him.  This was his son come home. No, he was not as well as he had left, but that was his son, nevertheless. That is when he ran again.
Two people met. One embraced the other. Another had his hands at his side.
“Father, I have sinned against you...” the son started to say.
But the father, in a loud voice, proclaimed, “Somebody prepare a party! This, my son, was lost, but has now come home!”
And the party began.

(Excerpt from my upcoming book, What if God Doesn't Really Love You?)

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