Connections 03.27.2022: Going Home Again

Luke 15:1-3, 11-24

In the mid-1980s the movie Peggy Sue Got Married was one of several Hollywood-ized versions of “the good old days.” In it, Peggy Sue mysteriously time-slips from her 25th high school reunion back to senior year. The Beatles don’t yet exist. The Edsel Ford is not yet a failure. The computer genius of the ‘80s is still a bullied high school nerd. Peggy Sue’s looming divorce is just a fraught teenaged romance, and her beloved grandparents are still alive.

The conventional wisdom is that “you can’t go home again,” but Peggy Sue does, with a combination of wistfulness and reality-checking. So does the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable. Their stories are different, of course. The prodigal stormed away in rebellion and went missing. His father anxiously hoped for his defiant son’s safe return. When the boy came back, poor, hungry, broken, his father ran to meet him with robes and rings, calling for a Welcome Home party, a welcome-back-to-life party.

Peggy Sue reenters her childhood home as if she were a typical teen on a typical day; her parents don’t know the regrets, heartbreaks, and struggles their adult daughter carries with her from the future. In the same way, the prodigal’s father has no idea what his son has been doing all the time he was lost. Dad doesn’t know about the money down the tubes, or the shameful jobs his son was willing to take, or the pig food he settled for. We know, as Jesus’ hearers, that the son had been up to no good, but Dad doesn’t know and doesn’t care. Only one thing matters: his son has returned. The prodigal carries home his regrets, heartbreaks, struggles, but Dad does not demand details or require a comeuppance. The loss of money and time and even dignity is nothing compared to the loss of his beloved child, who has come home again. Who is alive again.

Peggy Sue wasn’t exactly a prodigal. She didn’t run away from home; she grew up. She didn’t willfully take her parents’ money, rejecting their life and their care and burning all her bridges to go squander everything on a frivolous road trip. She just left “the good old days” behind, because that’s how time works.

She was no more of a prodigal than most of us are. Which is to say: we are all prodigals. We waste plenty. We leave those whose love we didn’t cherish or even recognize—or they leave us. We wish we could un-burn some bridges. We carry our heartbreaks and struggles, and we carry the regrets of decisions we’ve made (and some we didn’t). We may not wish to go back in time to some imaginary “good old day,” but we dream of finding ourselves truly welcomed home again.

Discussion

  • Imagine yourself as the prodigal child. What regrets do you carry? What mistakes to do you wish you could unmake? What has broken your heart, and what struggles have marked your journey? What would the relief of coming home feel like to you?
  • Imagine yourself as the prodigal’s father. What disappointments and hurts could you let go of to welcome a beloved one home? What keeps you from letting those things go?
  • What is the difference between longing for “the good old days” and truly coming home again? Would you want to recreate some former version of your life? Can you imagine a new life and a new home where you are fully known and embraced, no matter what path has led you there?
  • What might God be calling you to return to? How is God is waiting to welcome you back to life?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.com.

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