The Joy of Returning
A Reflection for Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
He said to him,
'My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’ (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
The prodigal son is one of the best-known parables, and for good reason; even without the context of Jesus being the one telling it, it makes for a compelling narrative. The lost son of a wealthy father returns home after spending too long in the material world. The understandable indignation and frustration of the dutiful older brother. The father’s reaction to the revelation that his son is alive and unconcerned with his irresponsible behavior and simply happy that he is not gone from his life. I truly think there is something for everyone in this tale—particularly for people who have been in the position of all three characters, as I have.
Of course, the prodigal son remains the most relatable character to me. While, yes, I have often strayed from the path that had been set by those before me (and things might likely have turned out smoother for me if I had followed that path), ultimately the part that I relate to the most is the joy of returning home after being gone for a long time.
“Home” in this case is whatever space gives you comfort and fond memories.
Every so often, I return to my old all-boys high school, which was most certainly the site of my greatest academic trials and tribulations. As a teenager, I was admittedly not very good at the whole “school” thing. Due to several factors, I was constantly falling asleep in class, getting bad grades and feeling embarrassed during parent-teacher conferences as my folks were told about all my foibles. The school was quite the crucible and I think I would have been forgiven if I had said that I wanted nothing to do with the place after I graduated. After all, it had caused me no shortage of stress and anxiety for the four years I spent there.
And yet—it was home.
The time I spent there was valuable to me. It taught me how to conduct myself in the world and to never expect that anything will just be handed to me. Things did not come easy to me in high school and those struggles helped steel me for the world to come.
There were good things, too, though I did not properly appreciate them at the time. It gave me a love of theater, for one, that continues to this day. It also gave me my passion for sound design, as I was sound director of many of the productions that we put on—and now I am a sound engineer for many of America’s podcasts. Most importantly, though, it gave me my friends, my brothers for life. For two years, I lived with two of my best friends from high school, guys whom I’d met on the first day of my first year, who were in homeroom with me.
When I go back to that school, sometimes I expect to be chewed out by my old teachers. After all, I never exactly lived up to their expectations. But they never do that. In fact, they just seem happy that the boys return. I always loved my teachers; they were and still are some of the smartest and most insightful people I know. And they see me, smile, pat me on the back, ask how I’ve been. Every so often I’ll see the new kids swing by, visions of my past, echoes of a life now years behind me and I’m reminded that I’m home.
Home gives you so much. A lot of the time, you don’t really appreciate it until you leave it. But when you return, sometimes you’re lucky enough to experience what I get to experience every time I go back: familiarity, comfort and acceptance, regardless of where you are in life.