I was late, therefore I was anxious. I could go off on all the reasons why one shouldn’t be late, but my emotional response to my own tardiness is probably a bit excessive. I was late, and freaking out, and therefore kind of speeding. Just a little. I try to avoid egregious law-breaking, but I was trying to avoid being later.
I’d promised a meal to some friends going through a hard time and had lost track of the day. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but they live 45 minutes away. So I’d ordered pizza to be picked up along the way, jumped in the giant Ford Expedition, and I sped west.
I delivered the food within the window of acceptable tardiness, exchanged greetings and news with my friends, then began the drive back from this suburb into Boise. And maybe it was because I was without the same pressure to be somewhere, but I was amazed at how short the trip back seemed to be.
I didn’t time myself either way, but my the perception of the drive, the same route each direction, was just that it was quicker going back. This is a phenomenon. It’s a thing that plenty of people experience. Some have attributed it to landmarks learned one direction marking distance on the way home. One scientist disagrees with that, pointing to expectation and disappointment as the reasons why the trip out seems to take longer. You want to go or at least have a reason to and it takes longer to get there than you desire. But there are no such pressures when returning from vacation.
Except, plenty of us actually want to be home. Time away may have been great fun or relaxing, but perhaps I’m only speaking for myself, but I tend to miss my own bed and the comfort that I’ve built into my house and routine that are thrown off by vacation or work travel.
Is our inbound desire less than what we experience on the way out? Or is it just easier to come home? Home being the place of comfort, family, and convenience? I wonder what this would have been like for the prodigal son of Luke, chapter 15? This fictitious figure seemed to have plenty of desire driving him off to that far country: the eagerness for a lifestyle different from how he’d been raised, replete with partying, women, and freedom, the eagerness to escape the shame of taking his portion of the family estate early.
Did disappointment drive him home? The fool and his money had parted ways and things had gotten so bad in this far off country that he was starving and doing work that was below his station. Was the journey home shorter because he’d spent it in his own head, figuring out what to say to his father? Or did it feel longer because nothing stretches time out as much as hunger out and he knew that once he’d arrived, he’d at least eat as well as the servants?
Returning home is obviously more than getting miles behind us. For the prodigal, there were also the necessities of apologizing, repenting, and acknowledging the need for help. In their own way, these too are homecomings as grace and mercy are offered and received and relationship is hopefully restored.
The prodigal seems to have thought that his homecoming was simply that of returning to family land, with an expectation basic care even with reduced status. Perhaps he anticipated a cold shoulder, but instead, in his return, he was received with warmth and love and care and maybe he knew he was not just back but truly home when he saw his father running to greet him, calling out orders for a ring, robe, sandals, and to kill the fatted calf. And this return was probably incredibly short as his fears were washed away.
When it comes to sin and repentance, the road home isn’t all that long. It’s even reduced by a Father who runs to greet us, who desires to have us in his arms. We often know the depth of our sin, we understand that unbelief has carried us far off and we tend to think that a return to faith, a return to righteousness will be lengthy. Perhaps it is with some of the people we’ve harmed in our sin, but not so with the Father. Just repent. Confess your sin, knowing that it’s already absolved. And you’re home.