Last evening at Quaker Bible Study we read the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), and toward the end I had a disturbing thought.
I was reflecting on the younger son, miserable and starving among the swine, regretting that he squandered his inheritance, but then he "comes to himself" (v. 17) and realizes he can go home and beg his father to take him in. He does go back, and his father welcomes him back with great joy.
Good for him.
But then I flashed on all the people growing old with regrets, feeling they'd squandered their lives, but with no home to go back to, no loving family to welcome them back. Or if not regrets, at least sadness that former joys are no more, miserable and starving spiritually / interpersonally.
I read recently that some huge percentage of people in nursing homes have never a single visitor.
Or, less dramatically, all of us have our gloomier moments, not necessarily "repenting" in the sense of blaming ourselves or feeling that we'd squandered anything, but still feeling sad and rained on; being miserable among the swine, so to speak.
Eventually, I "came to myself" and realized that there's a metaphorical opportunity to "return home to the loving parent" to be had in the story, returning to the spiritual center, to the benevolence of the universe, to inward peace - depending on what words one uses to describe "what it's all about" in life...
Quakers traditionally read Scripture as pointing to the Truth within: the Light, the Way, the Reality beyond words. Today I'm filled with the experience of the loving father, always waiting for me to return home, to the Center, always welcoming. All I have to do is wake up, come to myself, remember who I am and whose I am.
I'm not sure how to connect this to the plight of a lonely person nearing death without family around... but I'll continue to keep reflecting on it...
"The purpose of God in the life of the world is a web of purposes which
has a single centre, from which all the threads go out and to which they
all return. Only from the centre can we begin to trace the plan of it. From
any other point it will seem a meaningless tangle."
Grace and peace and love and joy to anyone who reads this --