A Spiritual Journey of the Prodigal Son
              
  Jacquelyn K. Heasley
 
My father was a very wealthy man. Everyone knew him. Living in his house meant having an abundance of everything; money, land, fine clothes, servants, and most especially, a good name. Being his child could be rather intimidating at times. Everything about me was compared to my father. The way I smiled, the way I walked. Certain ways I moved my mouth or twitched my eye when I was amused. Even the way I talked and moved my hands was like him.
 
On trips to town, I only had to mention my father’s name and the best was brought out to me. Credit was extended to me everywhere, based on my father’s good name. Shopkeepers never questioned whether or not they would receive their monies owed them. I didn’t even have to carry my packages home. All I had to do was point to an item of my choice and the merchant was more than happy to see it carried to the palace. After all, delivery boys were a dime a dozen because everyone wanted the opportunity to have a peek in the grand palace on top of the hill. It was an honor having the son of the King doing business in their stores. It increased sales for the storeowners. Everyone wanted to wear the clothes worn by the prince.
 
I was always well thought of in town. I had many friends. My generosity was far-reaching renowned. I never saw a person with a need that I didn’t fulfill it without question or suspicion. If it were food, I would make arrangements for food. If the need were for clothing, I would have clothes delivered. If the need was an outstanding debt to the physician for medical bills, I paid off the debt. If the need were school fees, I paid the tuition. The treasure in my father’s house seemed to be endless, so money was never a problem. Room after room was filled with huge mounds of priceless treasures from countries all over the world. Gold and silver were in abundance. I never had to pray about whether or not to take care of a need that I saw. Giving was a privilege and a joy in my father’s house. It was, in fact, encouraged.
 
Love was in abundance in my father’s house. Everything my father did said that he loved me. I wouldn’t even have to ask him for anything. It was as if he knew what I needed even before I did. Love and acceptance were in the house. I didn’t understand the word, insecure. My father praised everyone so much, we never thought we couldn’t do something or that someone was better than we were. We were encouraged to dream dreams, never thinking they wouldn’t come true. In my father’s house, all dreams came true. The word impossible didn’t exist. Everything was possible there. If it was a lack of expertise in an area, my father brought in the best teachers to instruct us.
 
Life was full in my father’s house. There was always laughter in the walls of the palace. Our hearts were merry with wine from the finest vineyards. Rich oils flowed in baths and vats, enriching our cosmetics and foods. The strongest livestock in the lands grazed in my father’s pastures, providing tender, succulent meats for my fathers table. Mealtime was always something to be anticipated in delight. Fruits and vegetables were carefully grown and prepared, keeping us strong and healthy. Yes, life was good in my father’s palace.
 
One day while I was in the village, something caught my eye that I had seen before, but really never noted. I continued walking as I had many times before, but the image stayed in my mind. As I went home and lay in my soft, warm bed, my mind went back to the image I saw in town. It seemed I couldn’t get it out of my minds eye. My sleep was rough and restless, as I wrestled with the image in my head. I found an excuse to return back to the village a couple of days later. I just happened to pass by the same street again. Something within me was telling me to run, but I felt a vibration run through my body that I rather enjoyed. That sensation seemed to overpower the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Day after day I found an excuse to go back to that same place, knowing I should have stayed away from the very beginning, but I was compelled to keep going back.
 
I made many new friends. They had experienced so many things I had no knowledge of. It was like I was their new toy and it was their job to educate me on all the things I had missed out on in life at the palace. They had so much liberty from responsibilities. Time meant nothing to them. Days were nights and nights were days. There was such a strong sense of camaraderie among them. They were family and watched out after one another. It wasn’t long and I was one of them, like a brother in a big family. Some of my new family heard of a faraway place that offered some exciting opportunities. I was asked to go along. My father for too long after all controlled me. It was time that I determined my destiny and start calling the shots in my life.
 
I went to my father and asked him for my share of the family estate. I told him I was leaving his house and going on a trip with my new friends. I squared my shoulders and my chin and was ready for whatever he had to say. I expected him to try to talk me out of leaving, but I wasn’t prepared for the look in his eyes. It was as if everything that was light within him became shadowed. When he looked into my face, searching into the depths of my soul, it was as if we were somehow connected and my leaving took life out of him. In order to keep my agreement with my friends, I took my portion of the estate and left quickly. I know how convincing my father can be and I didn’t want to have my mind changed. I had made my decision and I was sticking by it.
 
I had quite a caravan with me for the journey. My share of the family estate was rather hefty, so it took many, many animals to carry the wealth, along with numerous servants. My entourage and me left the palace gates and never looked back, but I knew my father was standing there watching my every move. In fact, I felt his eyes upon me until the darkness fell upon the land and it became night. It made me feel really bad, but I didn’t want to think about it so I pulled out some of that fine wine I brought with me from my fathers house and drank until I couldn’t remember his tear-filled eyes. I must have passed out because my friends related things to me the next day that I supposedly did but had no memory of. I really think they fabricated the wild stories for fun.
 
My circle of friends seemed to grow every day. It was great fun being able to give my new friends expensive clothes and fine foods. Someone always needed a loan and I was more than happy to help him or her out. We had a lot of great parties, or rather, just one very, very long party that never stopped. We never experienced this kind of fun at the palace. I didn’t know there were so many interesting kinds of people in the world. I never had to look for a woman. It seems they were always finding me, more than willing to make me happy. Those baskets of gold jewelry I brought with me made it easy for me to give them beautiful gifts in return for the satisfaction they provided for me. After a while though, It seemed more items were gone than what I had given away. Surely I was mistaken. My friends would never take anything from me.
 
Every time one of the women would leave, I felt a tearing pain as if a part of me walked away with them. I never could figure that out. Was I disappearing? Who was I anyway? I could hardly remember my life at the palace. My fathers face seemed to disappear with my own. As I was submerged into the depths of the earth, so was my memory of him. I wasn’t a prince any longer and probably never was. I am sure that idea came from a bad dream. I never lacked for someone to yell at me saying how stupid and disgusting I was. I hadn’t heard any words of praise in a very long time. Well, I wouldn’t say anything good about them either, no good scums!
 
Months started passing by as weeks and weeks as days and days as hours and, before I knew it, many years had passed since I left my fathers house. My money ran out long ago. I traded my last piece of silver for some very bad wine just last week, or was it last week? Maybe it was last month. I really don’t remember. I hadn’t eaten in days and I was very hungry. I had no wine left, nor money for wine and my body was shaking uncontrollably. I was experiencing pain that was excruciating. I had vomited until there was nothing left to vomit. Everything in me was screaming for some wine. I was hungry, yes, but I had to have a drink! I couldn’t take any more.
 
As I started coming to, I smelled a strong scent of manure. I followed the odor to find a small farm. I know I didn’t look like much. My tunic, or at least what was left of it, was covered in filth. But I was desperate. I needed a job so I could work for food. The farmer was obviously shocked by my appearance, but seemed likeable enough. He asked me my name. I told him some made up name. I quit using my fathers name long ago. No one believed me anyway, so I eventually dropped it. The farmer threw a bucket of husks down at my feet and pointed to the pigpen. I thanked the man profusely and stepped my weary bare feet into the slimy mud, scattering the husks about.
 
As I watched the pigs scrambling for the husks, the empty ache in my own belly was reminding me that I hadn’t eaten. I kept hoping the nauseous odors would drive out the hunger pains, but I wasn’t so lucky. I bent over and picked up a pod, wiping the slimy manure off with my tunic. As I raised it toward my quivering lips to place it in my mouth, it was as if I came to myself and remembered my father’s house. His pigs ate corn, not husks. No one was ever hungry there. My father’s servants and even his pigs were better fed than I was. Where had the years gone? I couldn’t even remember why I decided to leave in the first place. How could I have been so stupid? My so-called new family left me when the money disappeared, at least, those that didn’t die or end up in prison. So much for family.
 
I wondered if my father was still living. And my brother. Was he well? Probably married by now. And kids. Was I an uncle? I hadn’t thought about home in so very long. It hurt to remember so I quit remembering. Yet it sparked something deep within me I hadn’t felt in so long. Feeling. I hadn’t felt anything in a very, very long time. It would be so nice to be back home in my old room in my bed. Safe. Feeling loved. Love. I haven’t even thought of that word in such a long time.
 
I wondered if my father and brother would let me come back and just work in the fields or tend the livestock. At least I would be assured my belly would be full and I would have a clean set of clothes and a warm clean bed at night. It was worth the chance. I was sure they would have thought me dead since I quit sending word home many years before. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I had made up my mind. I was going back to the palace. Nothing was stopping me. I couldn’t live like this any longer. This wasn’t living.
 
Day after day I trudged up and down hills and valleys, scratching the barren land for just a bite to eat. Some days I found nothing, other days I might be lucky and eat a desert rodent cooked over the open fire. Water was few and far between. But I was undaunted. I was going home. Every day I kept pictures in my mind of my father’s house. Those images would sustain me when I physically was at the end. Weeks went by at a snails pace. I was too weary to be tired. Months had crawled by, but finally, at long last, I found myself climbing the last hill, the hill that held up my father’s palace. It seemed to be the hardest one of all to climb, but I had come so far, I would not be stopped.
 
Making my way up the road, I caught view of the palace wall. It is funny, when I left home, I thought those walls fenced me in and prohibited me. But, in actuality, those walls were safety for me. What a fool I was! Why didn’t I see it? A fool like me couldn’t go back into the palace. There was no place for me there. What was I thinking? I had turned to walk away when I saw my dog, tail wagging behind him, hopping towards me. He lunged at me, licking my face and hands as if he didn’t notice the dirt and stench. His excitement prodded me to continue on to the palace.
 
Of course, when I approached the gate, the gatekeepers didn’t recognize me. I left them many years before, handsome, strong, and healthy with a long entourage behind me. And here I was, stinking and filthy, aged way beyond my years, looking extremely thin and sickly. They refused to let me pass through the gates. And rightfully so. They didn’t believe me when I told them who I was. But who could blame them? I was a fool to ever dream of coming back to this place. When I was about to give up and leave, I heard an all too familiar voice. It was the voice of my father calling out my name. I looked toward the palace and as I peered through the matted grime of my hair falling on my face, I saw my father running toward me. His arms were outstretched and he was running with everything in him. His face was so radiant; I could hardly look upon it. Tears, mingled with sweat and grime, blinded me so that I could hardly make out his image as he threw his arms around my neck, kissing me. You are home! My son, you are home! You are alive! Everyone thought you were dead, but I continued to have hope. I have looked for you to return every day since the moment you left. I knew you would come home son, back to the palace to those who love you.
 
As we walked toward the house, we held each other so tightly nothing could have separated us. My father yelled out to one of his servants, Go into the house. Get my finest robe to place upon my son. He is home. He is alive! To another he yelled, Go to the north pasture and get the best fatted calf in the herd. My son is home. He was dead, but is now alive. Kill it and make a feast for my son is home! He took the family ring that was always on his finger and placed it upon my bruised and filthy hand. It slid down, barely supported by the thin, bony knuckle. My father acted as if he didn’t notice. He was radiant. Tears continually poured from his eyes. That light in his eyes I had always known growing up was so intense, more than I remembered. Servants were scurrying in every direction.
 
Within minutes, the whole kingdom was in an uproar of excitement. Preparations were being made for the greatest banquet ever. I was embarrassed at the fervor. I was quickly ushered into my old room. My father pulled himself away to go see to the arrangements for the dinner, but promised to return to me shortly. A bath was poured almost instantaneously. I lifted my nose in the air and sniffed the old familiar fragrance of the fine oils and soaps. As I slid my crusty body into the luxurious tub, it was as if everything in me melted. I indulged myself by soaking a terribly long time. I never wanted to come out. I forgot what it felt like to be clean. Jug after jug of perfumed water was brought to me to make sure I was perfectly rinsed. Servants stood around with bath sheets with which to dry me. They didn’t do a very good job of hiding their horror as they dried my gaunt frame. A vile of perfumer’s oil in my old favorite blend was broken and poured upon me. It was rubbed into my skin and hair. The fragrance would make the lowliest pauper feel like a king! Was I dreaming or was this all real? If I was dreaming I didn’t want to wake up. But I jolted back into reality when the servants winced touching the various scars on my body. I guess I would always have them as reminders of my life away from the palace.
 
Clean clothes were lying on my bed, ready to be worn. It was as if I had never left. I plunged my face into the fine woven garments. Silk. My favorite. Someone remembered. Memories flooded me as I smelled the luxurious fabrics. There were shoes, my exact size, on the floor, shiny and welcoming. Chilled milk, fresh, warm cookies and various fruits were presented on a golden platter. One of the servants told me my father had asked them to bring it up before dinner because he knew I would be hungry. Servants dressed me while another combed out my hair. My father had sent his barber to cut my hair while other servants tended my hands and feet. I couldn’t brush my teeth enough! How wonderful it was to feel clean again!
 
I heard the sound of music playing and looked out my window onto the huge patio where all the festivities were coming together. The band was dressed in bright colorful costumes, making merry music from their numerous instruments. Dancers were dancing, clowns were entertaining and children’s faces were lighting up in sheer delight. I watched in awe as tray after tray of food was brought from every direction. I was beckoned to come down, the festivities had officially begun and they were ready for the guest of honor. I was so embarrassed. Surely, everyone there knew I had taken much of my father’s money and squandered it in the large cities on wild living. Why would they want to be kind to me? How could my father celebrate and invite everyone to celebrate with him when he knew what I did. But, that was my father’s way. He never held a grudge. He was always the first to forgive a matter.
 
But all of this was so overwhelming. Not like I imagined at all. I just wanted a bed at the stable and a meal with the husbandmen. That is all. I never expected this. I was so enjoying getting reacquainted with everyone. I kept looking at the faces in the crowd for the one familiar face of my childhood—my brother’s face. They told me he was in the fields. Later in the evening, as men’s hearts were merry with wine, I saw him in the crowd, rushing towards my father, not me. Oblivious to everyone present, he screamed at my father, What is this? What are you doing? Have you lost your mind? My brother took his inheritance and left you. He left all the work and responsibility to me. I have been here to take care of everything by your side. I never left. You could always count on me. You never killed a fatted calf for me. You never prepared a feast for me like this! The light in my fathers face began to flicker as my brother spoke his fiery words. His eyes searched my brother’s face, looking to connect with him. But looking back at him was anger. This was the son he loved so much and had counted on so many times in the years. Hate was staring at him and he was bewildered and wondered where that hate came from.
 
He gently spoke to my brother that everything he had was available to him all those years. He reminded him that enjoyed his father’s house every day but that his other son was dead, but is now alive and was welcome in his palace. He explained to my brother that this was my home as well as his and he could have eaten a fatted calf every day if he so chose. The weightiness of my father’s words hit my brother and the anger on his face seemed to melt. He turned his sunburned face to me and grabbed me up in his strong arms, muscles ripping. He picked my thin frame up from the floor and began to spin me around like he did when we were kids. I knew I was forgiven. We wept as we held one another. He was a good man, a good soul.
 
Excitement flooded every part of my being. I have never seen my father quite so handsome. The light from his face was incredible. I looked at my brother and saw the same visage as on my father! Could it be that same light was coming from me as well? As we spent more time together, that light seemed to increase. It was amazing. Everyone in my fathers house said that light was not evident in my father the whole time I was gone. It was as if it had been extinguished in him, as it had in me. But now that we were all together, the brightness was greater than it had ever been formerly. It was as if my father was a part of me and I was a part of my father and my brother was a part of us and we were a part of him and we were complete—one. The celebration continued all through the night until the sun broke through the next morning.
 
Things were great back at the palace. There was such light within us, the sun and the moon eventually just faded away and no one really even noticed. We didn’t have need of them any more. When it was time for autumn, I noticed the leaves on the trees never withered or fell to the ground. We picked fruit off the trees twelve months of the year. It was wonderful!
 
What had for years been a tiny stream before, flowing in the middle of the kingdom, steadily became a mighty rushing river. Water was available everywhere. It was as if it just flowed out of our very bellies. All we had to do was speak and water flowed out. Milk and honey were in abundance. No one got sick and no one died. There were no tears in my father’s kingdom, only the sound of laughter, not crying. It was a glorious life. It was more than I could have ever imagined or thought.
 
Stories ran rampant to the ends of the earth of my father’s kingdom. Kings and queens, loaded with wealth from their homelands, came from everywhere to see the kingdom of which they had heard such tales. No one was turned away. They were all welcomed and were invited to dine with my father. All of the articles on his table were made of engraved gold. The heavy fragrance of exotic flowers wafted through the air day after day, making one dizzy with romance and intrigue. Music seemed to come from everywhere yet nowhere. Voices singing would make one nearly drop to the floor in wonderment.
 
Before long, kings and queens laid their crowns before my fathers throne, yielding everything in their kingdoms to him. All of their peoples vowed allegiance to my father and bowed before him. People of every nation, tribe and tongue came, from the very least to the greatest. All knew my father and were welcomed in his palace. No one was turned away. There was literally no end to my father’s kingdom. It was like a perpetual kingdom. Everyone found rest in my father’s kingdom. Even the servants in their tasks were not working. It was all pleasure. There was rest on every side. Lions played in my fathers gardens with lambs. Children played with asps. It was a picture to behold. It was heavenly. In fact, it was heaven on earth.
THE END

@copyright 2016 Split-Second Sermons

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