Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Prodigals Returning

This morning, I returned to running (I will use the word running, even though less kindly other people might use words like "slow jogging," "lumbering," "slogging," "shuffling"). It's been almost 2 months since I ran down the Broadwalk at the beach. Again, I wonder, why have I denied myself this pleasure?

Well, for the better part of December, I didn't run because I couldn't inhale without coughing. And then there was travelling and then there was my eye infection.

And then there was laziness.

I am always a bit surprised to find that my muscles remember how to run, after a long period of not running.  And as a poet, my brain goes to other areas where I notice a similar dynamic.  In so many areas of my life, I return to activities and people which bring me joy--and I always wonder, why have I denied myself this pleasure?  I wrote a blog post with poems about the subject here.  But let me also consider the spiritual dimension.

Many of us are similarly surprised when we return to the churches of our childhood and find comfort from the Scripture, from the hymns, from the liturgy, from the community.  We may wonder why we waited so long to return.  We may find ourselves surprised to find the open arms that welcome us.

Likewise, we may experience something similar in our relationship to God.  We may begin the discipline of prayer, or return to it, and we may be surprised to find that God has been there waiting all along.

And the parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us that God is not standing around, growing impatient, watching the celestial clock, wondering where we are.  God plans the feast that God will give upon our return:  a fatted calf, a fine cloak, a circle of friends, a ring for our finger.

Now is the time of year when many of us return to regular life.  We put away the excesses that often come with December.  We return to jobs, to exercise, to regular bedtimes, to housework, and to moderate eating.  We might also be struggling with a smidge of depression--December was so much fun, so lovely, so festive!

Now is a good time to pick up those spiritual habits that we may have let slide during December.  Your worship community is still there waiting for you.  God looks forward to your return.  May you find, as you return, that the quiet joy in these relationships takes away the depression that can come as Winter settles in.

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