We run from all sorts of things. I don’t know if I was reacting to the tension in our home, overhearing arguments, or just feeling an overwhelming fear that my entire world was no longer safe, but when my parents were in the beginning of the end of their marriage, I decided to run away. I packed up my small backpack with vital provisions of graham crackers and juice boxes. I turned left out the back porch and found a small break in the fence that I was able to crawl under. I must have been gone for only a couple of hours, but hiding nearby in the woods while hearing my parents frantically search for me was weirdly comforting. It was as if I needed to know that I mattered, that they would try to find me. As the sun began to set, I returned home to the tear-stained face of my father. I remember my surprise seeing that my absence affected him.
Our adult forms of running away can look quite different from those of childhood, but they are actually not that different at all. We rarely grow out of the temptation to escape to places of comfort and release. In my case, as a child I just packed my bag and walked out of my family chaos, while as an adult I stayed quiet and escaped through addiction.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.” It’s not hard to imagine that the prodigal in Jesus’ story tried to find satisfaction in money, shallow friends, popularity, and sexual promiscuity. When life becomes all about self and when the energy of life is about relief from our self-imposed hunger for true connection, love becomes manipulation, strength becomes cowardice, and dignity becomes arrogance.
What consequences can you identify from your attempts to satisfy your soul with something other than relationship with the Father (for example, addiction, shame, self-contempt, isolation)?