By Sam Gutierrez
“When he came to his senses… he got up and went to his father.” / Luke 15:20
One of my favorite hymns was written over 250 years ago by Robert Robinson. One verse comes and goes so quickly that if we're not paying attention the melody will easily carry us into the next compelling stanza. But if we pause for a moment on the lyric - prone to wander, Lord I feel it - we'll realize that these seven words summarize the inclination and journey of every human heart. Sometimes strong, sometimes subtle, our hearts feel a strange pull to leave home and wander in foreign lands in search of something other.
In response to all this wondering, the forty days of Lent can be summed up with one powerful word – Return.
Many times over the course of our lives we leave the well-marked path of wisdom. We wander, we take short-cuts, we blaze our own trail and eventually without fail - we get lost. When the pain of our wandering forces us to stop and stand still, we begin to sense a homing beacon inside of us. We listen and hear a compassionate voice whispering in the depths of our hearts. Lent is an invitation to tune our ear and listen to that voice.
Lent is also an invitation to weep over the string of disasters left in our wandering wake. Then, to gather our empty stomachs and sad hearts and bravely start the journey home. While we journey on our way, we find courage and strength knowing that the whisper heard in the depth of our being belongs to Someone who has been patiently watching and eagerly waiting for our return. The porch light has been left on and the front door left ajar.
However, if for some reason our souls have been desensitized to subtle call of home, then Lent has an assertive backup plan: trumpets. One of the traditional passages for the beginning of Lent is Joel 2. The passage starts with a shout, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy hill...” The heralding horn blast is meant to startle you awake and call you to attention, urging you to stop falling asleep to your one important life.
As we enter this season of Lent, think about all the ways you leave home, wandering in search of something that will satisfy. Like the prodigal son, you may be tired of being in a far-away country, waist-deep in waste. If that’s the case, then Lent is a perfect time to make a change. It’s time to wake up, weep over your wandering, and start the journey home.
The good news of the gospel is that before we even consider returning home, God has been out searching for us. Lent is about turning but the moment we turn, we find God there – with open arms, having traveled a great distance to find us and welcome us home as beloved sons and daughters.