‘Returning’ has been a recurring theme in my Christian life. It has been my custom to keep a journal for a number of years – not a diary as such, simply a place to record reflections. Often these jottings spring from something I read.
Occasionally I sit down and re-read my journal. It’s a good thing to do because it encourages and reminds me that God is alive and well, and often seems to be up to something in my life.
The other thing I notice on these re-reads, are the recurring themes; and returning home to God is one of those big themes. I am one of those who was deeply influenced by Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal. I first read it on a sabbatical leave in 1999 and have gone back to it again and again. The image that Nouwen draws on for the book is Rembrant’s Return of the Prodigal – which is a picture that seems to follow me around. It feels that God is trying to use it as a reminder to me that I am welcome to ‘come home’ if I want to. I once came across it on a spare unplanned day out in Lourdes (I was staying locally, it was raining and I thought – could go and see what the fuss was all about!). As I turned a corner, there it was. Running the entire height of the main church – Rembrandt’s picture with the words Abba! Pere! A big enough message?
Nouwen picks up the same theme of returning in another book The Road to Daybreak. I read this in the same sabbatical year and came across my jottings about it in my journal just the other day.
“Even if we return only because following our desires has failed to bring us happiness.
Even if we return because being a Christian brings us more peace than being a pagan. God will bring us back. God will receive us.”
Henri Nouwen: The Road to Daybreak. Diary entry November 17th
For those of us who find being part of a church a bit of a struggle,maintaining a life with God is important. Remaining in connection with God as a disciple, and finding ways to return to God is what New Roots is about. Look out for those signs that God may be calling you back.