Dependence Day (from Luke 15: 11-24)
“Today is my Independence Day!” he proclaimed, dust billowing off the dirt track as the taxi sped away from home. His dad had stood there, tears filling his eyes as his youngest son disappeared from sight.
He’d been born and raised in that farmhouse: he and his older brother taking turns to let the cattle out at dawn, taking turns at the wheel of the tractor, taking turns to be the one to run into the kitchen with an injury: blood and grazed flesh and the smell of TCP on his dad’s hands. But he wanted more. Independence. Free from his father.
That day was a day of hope, a day of nagging fear and giddy excitement. A six-figure sum in the bank, new shoes on his feet, unshackled from the family, his father’s words now drowned out by thudding music and enthusiastic chatter and seductive whispers. Days bled into weeks and months in a whirlwind of parties and pleasure, adventure and sensation.
But that day seemed so long ago. Here he was, homeless, unwashed, trembling, living off Foodbank vouchers and supermarket wastage. As addiction gripped him and money dried up, his friends drifted away. The last person to knock on his door was the bailiff, who’d turned up to change the locks. Now he heard the sound of screeching brakes instead of music; the sound of insults and abuse instead of chatter; the whisper of repulsion instead of seduction.
Sitting on damp cardboard, watching jetlagged tourists and woozy hedonists drift past him in the dawn light, he remembered the warmth of his home, the smell of braised lamb in the kitchen, the smell of his dad’s clothes as he embraced him that final time. And as he made his way home, jumping over ticket barriers and thumbing lifts from van drivers, he rehearsed his “I’m sorry” speech, dreading his father’s reproach.
But he needed no words, no explanation; he just needed to turn towards home. As he walked down that dirt track, he saw his father running towards him, undignified yet all-loving, reaching his hands out to welcome his son home. Tears ran down their faces. Hope, which was lost, now stood renewed. This was Dependence Day.
(Readers: we were never created for independence. If you’re feeling lost, come to a local church this Sunday and find your home.)