The shelter was an interesting place: the staff seemed indifferent to the new face and story but the volunteers treated him as if he was a newly discovered celebrity. He supposed that between the two extremes, everyone got what they needed. He only wanted something to eat and to crawl into one of the strange-smelling beds every mission has and try to sleep through the chorus of snoring men that night.
He’d been traveling for days and hadn’t gotten anywhere near warm food. He slept in the back of a van one day after some nice family picked him up, otherwise, rest was a commodity that had continually slipped through his fingers. His eyes hurt. They were dry, like the wind-chapped skin on his face. He felt like he’d aged decades in the weeks since his parents threw him out.
He deserved it. He didn’t listen to them. He never bothered to hold a job, he just stole stuff and sold it whenever he wanted money. He brought girls and drugs home, tortured his younger siblings and for some incomprehensible reason, had too much influence on their lives. This was why his mother and father didn’t want him there. They saw how his brothers and sisters looked up to him. They sacrificed the oldest and turned him to the streets in hope that the rest wouldn’t follow in his footsteps.
That wasn’t even a month ago. Upset with what felt like a giant betrayal, he took off and never wanted to come home. Although he’d only just started his journey, he had already encountered people who did depraved things for drugs, booze and even food. It made his heart sick, but it was the path he had chosen to take.
It only took a few months before his parents wanted him back. It took less time to break his pride. The young man wanted to go home, but was afraid he’d never be welcome again.
★ ★ ★
Israel was exiled. Jeremiah lamented it. He wept for his people. The prophet preached the words Yahweh had to offer leading up to it all and though those same words had life, they didn’t suffice to draw the rebellious, sinful nation away from their promiscuity and idolatry. So God sent them away. Babylon came in and took people out of their promised land. Men and women were killed. Families were divided. God’s people left the country they loved against their will but according to His.
God didn’t want to kick them out.
But they were really slutty and had some serious issues.
But eventually, at the end of the ordeal, God told them they would make it home. Just like the prodigal son about whom Jesus would preach hundreds of years from then, they’d get to go back to the place they loved. All they had to remember was,
The road out is the road back.
(Jeremiah 31:21, The Message)
If they turned around and went the opposite way they came, someday, they’d get home. The same was true for the young man. He’s there now and he’s recovering.
They all are.