One of the fundamental themes running through Scripture is that we are not fully at home in this life on earth. We are “aliens and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13). In the creation account of Genesis, we are told that we were created to live in The Garden of Eden with God. It also tells us that we lost it because of sin. We lost our home. This is our condition, we are strangers in a strange land; we do not have a secure sense of being home. Home is a place of knowing we belong, that we are safe and secure. Home is a place that we know we are loved, accepted and understood. Not having a home is to be in a state of fear; we are alone and on our own. Because we do not have a home we are driven by fear, everything we do are attempts to escape fear. This causes us to strive to have control over our life in hopes that we can manage our fear. It is ironic that our loss of home and our state of fear originated in Adam and Eve’s desire to be their own master. They were tempted by the lie that they could “be like god”, to be in control and as a result of their sin they, and we, lost our home; and so we live a life driven by fear and attempts to gain control in order to escape fear based living.
But we are not without hope, we are not fully abandoned. We see this in Genesis when God expelled Adam and Eve from his Presence, he did not send them out naked, a state that represents vulnerability without protection. The biblical account tells us that “he clothed them” in animal skins. He provided them with a measure of protection, a symbol that he limited his rejection of them. They were not fully alone and on their own; he was and is still available to us.
Tom Keller in his brilliant book The Prodigal God, sees two paths of fear based living, a path of self discovery and individual fulfillment and one of moral conformity and self control. A path focused on pleasing ourselves and one of pleasing someone else; both paths put us in control. They are represented, respectively, by the younger son and the elder son of the parable found in Luke 15:11-32. Keller interprets this parable as a homecoming not only for the younger son, but for the elder son as well. It is a homecoming humanity,. This story is usually presented as one about a son, who “was lost and has now been found”. But Keller believes it is really about the “Prodigal God” who is a reckless and extravagant giver of all he has, which is what prodigal means, “to spend recklessly.” He is a God, Father, who recklessly gives all he has in sacrificial love in order for his lost children to return home.
If the Genesis account of creation is true representation of our condition, and I believe it is, then we are all on a journey to find our way to the home we have lost, a home where we are loved, accepted, and understood. A home where we can find our true identity and purpose, a home where we are free from fear. But what is this “home” and what is it like? Keller, with brilliant insight, sees that it is the father in the parable who shows us. It is the love of the father, his love for his sons and his desire for them to be with him that motivates everything he does. Nothing more, nothing less, he simply loves his sons and wants them to be with him.
When we think about what matters most to us what comes to mind? I mean when we get right down to it what is most important? We all know on some level, some more aware than others, that what really matters to us is to know that we are not alone. We need and want someone to love us and for us to love someone; for someone to be there for us, no matter what, someone we can depend upon to always love us and whom we can love in return. This is home; home is love. The only thing it costs us is giving upon our attempts to be in control.
There is another aspect about the two sons in the story and what they have to say about our return home to love. The younger was willing, even desperate to give up control, he came to realize his need for home, for love, so he humbled himself and came home. The elder son was no where near this realization and he angrily denounced his father’s welcoming of the younger son. He is totally unaware of his need and is desperate to be in control. So there are these two dynamics at work, an acute, even desperate desire to give up control or to be in control. Which one is it for you?