“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to [his] father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls [to me].’ So he divided to them [his] livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” (Luke 15:11-13)
Writing has become so difficult for me that it feels like I’m crawling when I should be running, and I have no one to blame but myself. I turned away from writing. I have allowed those “muscles” to atrophy. And now I struggle to put words on paper, much like an inactive athlete struggles to regain his endurance.
I’m well-trained in writing. I know usage. I know grammar. I have an extensive vocabulary. But I have not written. I have remained sedentary. I realize the fault is solely my own. I am the prodigal son.
I’ve turned away from what I love in order to indulge in pastimes like watching TV and playing video games. Those are fun, but they get me nothing. They are what Jesus might have called “prodigal living.” They entertain for a while, but there is a part of me which knows what I should be doing, and knows I’m ignoring the thing I was called to do. I’m the athlete who has decided running to the buffet is more rewarding than running a race. I’m the artist who has decided painting a house is just as fun as pouring my heart out on canvas. I’m the writer who has decided that indulging in other people’s stories is better than creating my own.
“But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.” (Luke 15:14)
Maybe you have experienced a time of famine, when you know in your heart that you have left your first love. You have left what makes you YOU. And you think you can never go back.
“I’ll never be an athlete.”
“I’ll never be an artist.”
“I’ll never be a writer.”
You think it’s too late. That’s what the prodigal son thought. He said, “It’s too late for me to go back to being my father’s son. Maybe I can be at least a servant.” And we say the same. We find things similar to what we want to do, but aren’t what we want to do. Because doing the things we love will take time and effort. And we don’t believe we have either to spare. We don’t believe we are worthy of those dreams because we’ve spent so long feeding “swine,” feeding those indulgences which threw us off track.
But here’s the truth. Just like the father embraced his son as soon as he saw him, those dreams of ours, those things we were made for, will embrace us the moment we turn back to them. It’s never too late. The athlete can rebuild his endurance. The artist can put brush to canvas once more. And the writer can again put words on paper. Will it be easy? No, but it is possible. Is it worth the pain and the struggle? Absolutely.
However, I’m not sure the prodigal analogy works perfectly. For one thing, even though our dreams are always waiting for us to come back, they can’t physically embrace us. But the bigger reason why this is an imperfect analogy is because we never find out exactly what the son did once he returned. Did he accept the father’s love? Or did guilt just continue to eat away at him for what he had done? I’d like to think that, because Jesus is telling the story, it has a happy ending and the son did not let past regrets interfere with the present.
As a returning prodigal, how do I ensure a happy ending for me? For instance, by now I could have completed the revision of my novel, and maybe even have sold some copies. But if I concentrate on the past, then I will paralyze myself for the present by thinking of all the things I could have done. Instead, I can plan on completing my revision now. I can move forward from here. I can practice my craft and remember that writing is what I love to do. It is what I was made to do. I was given this gift, this “portion of goods that falls to me,” and I’ve wasted it often. The question is whether I will continue to do so.
I don’t know if any of this is accurate or even if it makes sense. But what I do know is that, thanks to pondering this, I have been writing. I sat at my desk, keyboard in front of me, and practiced my craft. Will anyone see this? I don’t know. But I’m seeing it. I’m seeing I still have the ability to write. Even though I haven’t practiced my craft, I can still write. Am I writing well? Probably not as well as I can be, but that’s not the point. I will sit here at the computer every day and write. And by writing, I will get better. I will improve. And I will be a better steward of the gift which has been given to me.