February 19

“And every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2

A child of God was dazed by the variety of afflictions which seemed to make her their target. Walking past a vineyard in the rich autumnal glow she noticed the untrimmed appearance and the luxuriant wealth of leaves on the vines, that the ground was given over to a tangle of weeds and grass, and that the whole place looked utterly uncared for; and as she pondered, the Heavenly Gardener whispered so precious a message that she would fain pass it on:

“My dear child, are you wondering at the sequence of trials in your life? Behold that vineyard and learn of it. The gardener ceases to prune, to trim, to harrow, or to pluck the ripe fruit only when he expects nothing more from the vine during that season. It is left to itself, because the season of fruit is past and further effort for the present would yield no profit. Comparative uselessness is the condition of freedom from suffering. Do you then wish me to cease pruning your life? Shall I leave you alone?” And the comforted heart cried, “No!” (Streams in the Desert)

A grandson announced that he was running away from home; he was done with domestic rules and responsibilities and was heading out for greener pastures. The incident that launched his tirade and subsequent decision to bolt was his father requiring him to dismantle the dome tent that he and his cousin had erected on Sunday afternoon in our backyard. I like camping as much as the next guy, but a tent is not our idea of yard art; so, I called and requested the construction foreman to return as demolition expert. That initiated a meltdown; our own Chernobyl, right next door.

Our daughter called to enlist her mother’s help. I was oblivious to the developing crisis until I saw my wife returning home down the caliche road with grandson at hand and a garbage bag in tow. I quickly learned that she had entered his bedroom and told him to place essentials in the plastic bag, excluding toys—there would be no children’s games where he was going. She faced me while rolling her eyes in his direction, and recounted his decision to leave home. I suffered a flashback to my own prodigal experience that lasted one city block, then responded by saying in my sternest tone that I would take him downtown and drop him off at ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ the homeless shelter operated by a local mission organization. My wife was worried that our hard headed grandson would make good on his threat, and that so would I. What she didn’t know was that I was already thinking through Plan B. Fortunately for all of us, our six-year-old rebel had a change of heart. Through crocodile tears he sputtered that he didn’t want to go after all; a homeless shelter wasn’t what he had in mind when conjuring up images of striking off on his own and leaving rules behind. Call it homesickness or sudden insight, but the shock of consequence made everything about home look much better in relief. The thought of a world without love is scary indeed.

Most of us leave home and spend the rest of our lives trying to find our way back. We may not physically abandon all that is familiar, but an urge arises within each of us that insists ours is the right way; we convince ourselves we can make it better on our own. That “bent” we call independence; the Holy Bible calls it sin. In the end, the best that can happen within each of us is a lingering homesickness that finally convinces us to return home. Father really does know best, and fortunately for each of us, grace burns all bridges and enables us to see that the Father’s house is where we belong all along.

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