Do you remember the story of the prodigal son? It is one of Jesus’ best-known parables. It goes like this....
The younger of a man’s two sons asked his father for his inheritance. He then set off to a faraway country where he squandered his inheritance in riotous living. With no money left, he soon had to accept work tending pigs. He was so hungry that he could have eaten the husks he fed to the pigs.
|The prodigal son returns|
Severely despondent, he longed to return home but was afraid. Eventually, he did decide to return home, expecting his father to renounce and punish him. Instead, his father ran to meet him as he arrived and welcomed him with great joy and celebration.
Like the prodigal son, we left Heaven to set out on a great adventure through the cosmos. But we have not been happy in our misguided travels. We now feel a faint but growing desire to return home to Heaven. Yet we fear that our Father in Heaven will judge and condemn us. Instead, He has been patiently waiting and will greet us joyously when we finally decide to return home.
I’ve been feeling like a prodigal son lately. Not long ago, I was looking at some photos I took last year during a trip to Pennsylvania where I grew up. Suddenly, I was overcome by homesickness and a desire to return home. Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling like a prodigal son. Or maybe it was Lesson 182 in A Course in Miracles that awoke in me a dormant memory of my real home.
|Where I lived at age 5 to 7|
I have spent time in many places around the world, most of them courtesy of the U.S. Army -- places like Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa. In 1990, the Army brought me to Panama. I retired from the Army in 1991 and remained here in Panama. Though I decided to stay here, I was violently torn for a decade by conflicting desires to be in two places at the same time: Panama and Pennsylvania. This torment did not end until I discovered that I am here for a reason and I have some mission to complete here. Even so, there is only one place on earth where I get that special feeling of being home-home. And that place is, of course, central Pennsylvania with its hills, valleys, forests, rivers, and farms, where I grew up. No matter where I’ve been or what I’ve accomplished in life, I am, and always will be, just a simple country boy from the hills of Pennsylvania. Certainly it’s as close as I can get to Heaven while still here on earth. But is Pennsylvania my real home?
ACIM Lesson 182 answers my question. It tells me that Heaven is my real home. LIke the prodigal son, I have travelled far from my real home. And on this journey through the physical realm, I have squandered my God-given inheritance in debauchery.
Lesson 182 puts it so eloquently: “This world you seem to live in is not home to you. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true. A memory of home keeps haunting you....” But the lesson reassures me. It says: all I have to do is to be still and in an instant I can experience Heaven once again.
Surely Lesson 182 qualifies as one of the most beautiful lessons in ACIM. It says that I am in exile here, learning things and playing “games” to occupy myself in order to cover up my sadness, until it’s time to go home again. My persistent homesickness for Pennsylvania merely symbolizes my homesickness for Heaven. In retrospect, I can see that I’ve always felt it, though faintly. And I can see that my desire to re-create Heaven here on earth has been a poor substitute for Heaven itself. To be sure, my memories of Heaven are not very clear. But I think those memories explain my desire to remember what lies beyond the veil.
So, am I a prodigal son? Yes. Most definitely. But you know what? I believe we all are, whether we know it or not. As Lesson 182 says, “...everyone who walks this world...is not at home.” Heaven is our real home. ❖