Hope 

January 2, already. It almost feels like I missed that window of opportunity to reflect on the past year, with it’s joys and sorrows.  But reflection is easy today, as I’m forced to sit and rest amidst the chaos of our ongoing transition from Christmas back to the every day, as I recover from a wicked bout of the flu. 

Fill a plastic tote. Empty the dryer. Dust the living room. Sit.  

Mop the bathroom. Fill the washer. Set out the jar of seashells gathered during our beach wedding in 2010, plus a few fresh candles and a framed hand lettered quote created by one of my artful friends. Sit.

In the sitting is time to reflect, to be thankful. To pray, and hope and hurt.
The house is quiet, other than the whirring of the washer as it begins to spin.
Exit 2017.  Another year has come and gone. So much wonder. Answered prayers. Church life and ministry. Love, friendships, LifeGroup. Sweet memories. Birthdays celebrated. Hospital visits. Vacations enjoyed. Closer walk with the Lord. Family gatherings over Thanksgiving and Christmas. And pictures to mark all the moments.
I’m like the new mom who has forgotten her labor pains. God has been so good to us. Sure, 2017 had it’s hard moments. They just didn’t carry over.
Except for missing the prodigal.
Parables are stories that teach, but not much is said in scripture about the family that the prodigal left behind. Did they run after him, begging him to come home? Did they sit by the window, checking the horizon day after day, month after month, as one year became two, then three? Did they send out a search party?  Did they pray?  Did they hurt, long for and hope for restoration for their son who was lost?  Did they get angry and feel deceived? Did anyone ever provide them with info on how the prodigal was doing, if he was actually seen somewhere alive?   Did they have broken hearts?  Did they give up hope?
My first experience with a real life prodigal was some years ago, when a family in our LifeGroup at the time revealed that their daughter had been absent 5 years and counting. I couldn’t wrap my head around that.  Like many people who haven’t walked those shoes, I tried looking for some reason, fault or cause that would rightly explain how a family could be ripped apart like that. Hindsight has taught me that those questions are pointless and hurtful.  Reasons can be many or few, real or imagined, justified or not …. they are all just like smoke.  Over time they dissipate, leaving behind only a heavy unpleasant odor.
Another, much closer friend had her prodigal return just a few days before Christmas. The joy and hope of his restoration was short lived. He couldn’t stick with the program and left, going back underground again.
It isn’t said outright, but it’s implied. As painful as it is, as sad as it is, as much as it hurt …. life went on after the prodigal took his inheritance and left the family. Then a series of hard things happens before the prodigal makes a decision for repentance and seeks reconciliation. I imagine with some prodigals it takes more hard things over a longer period of time to get there. 
But us?   We wait in the living and live in the waiting, with hope and joyful expectation. Because The Lord my God is on the throne, Satan has no real power over our prodigal. Because hope has a name and joy has a name … His is the name that is above all names.   Jesus.  
And on that day, what a celebration it will be. For the one who was once lost will have been found, the one who was thought dead will be made alive.

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