I’m traveling a lot these days it seems. This summer has been filled with a lot of moving around, and my car is the best proof of this. My trunk and back seat filled with clothes, books, essentials that I believe keep me alive that have no place to live. This summer I have slept in a combination of over ten different rooms from an extended stay hotel where I witnessed prostitution to a cabin that has a swamp cooler. Yes, my living arrangements have varied, but I really can’t complain. In fact, I’ve enjoyed the moving around. It’s taught me to be uncomfortable, which is something I don’t like. The wandering around has made me do things that I’ve never done as well.
This summer, I took a job in Dallas at a law firm that I thought would be story book. The programs, the people they helped, but really I was just another intern in a large organization that didn’t have much for me to do. Now, here’s what normal, people pleasing Joseph would have done. Stayed, stuck it out. But, I did something crazy in my story, I quit. I left a job. I said goodbye, and said hello to something new and spontaneous. On a whim I left Dallas, packed up and moved to Marble Falls to work at a camp, that I truly didn’t know a lot about.
The wandering has been good for me. In fact, I’ve learned wandering has taught me how to come home. There’s a painting, I truly love: Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son, A painting of a Father holding a son returning from squandering his inheritance, received early, and an elder son looking on with uncertainty as to choose to embrace his younger brother. I love the painting. I tend to think of myself as the elder son. I don’t party, I don’t run off late at night, sleep with women night after night, and I don’t blow money casually. But, I am missing the picture when it comes to who I am. Even I fail to see who I am. I am the younger son. I have been running all summer, my whole life in fact, running from who I am. In this summer of transitions, from college, relationships, new jobs, etc. I am constantly wandering looking for happiness and fulfillment from things that cannot truly give me contentment. But, I know where to go. I need to be running to my Father’s arms. Truly looking for an embrace does not fade with achievements, looks, and a popularity contest. As Henri Nouwen puts it so well, “I have fled the hands of blessing and run off to faraway places searching for love.” God has given me much to delight in, mercy, compassion, love, and grace unparalleled and rivaled by none, yet I chase desires of the world.
Again Nouwen states, “I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.” I need to stop searching for things in people that we cannot truly produce. It isn’t even about lowering expectations either, it’s about not making others your god. Not making others a god in your mind, where he or she can satisfy your every need and desire, where they can disappoint you in every way possible. Return son, return daughter where His mercies are new every morning.
So, I’ve wandered this summer. Drove a lot, packed and moved, and hit repeat several times. I ended up at Camp of the Hills where kids from the inner city come and we love on them and give them Jesus. My plans never involved this place, and the people I’ve had the privilege to work with have been a welcoming home. This place has been a welcoming back to loving people, being with them, taking their luggage, both emotional and physical, bringing it in our cabin and welcoming it into our place. The place we live with campers, both temporary, is a place for relationships to grow, form, and return our thoughts and all we have back to Jesus. The one who taught us how to love. When I return from camp and start law school, when kids go home after a week of camp we’ve learned to return to the Father of compassion. Who knows our every scar, holds ever tear, and is desperately searching for our attention. We have a God jealous for our attention, and so worthy of our affection.
How I desire for your embrace, O Lord
Show me, a child to look to you more