Anyone can wander away from God’s love, seeking their own path, believing that, even as we “leave home” and assert our own independence and identity, we are still walking at God’s side. Henri Nouwen reflected, “Leaving home means ignoring the truth that God has ‘fashioned me in secret, moulded me in the depths of the earth and knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).’ Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home and must look far and wide to find one” (from “The Return of the Prodigal Son”).
Life’s losses (whether they be of home, family, opportunities, or identity) are an invitation for renewal and re-creation. “Learning the value of loss is,” as Joan Chittister, observes, “a trip to a foreign land… The loss of the sense of self that defeat brings in its wake is the struggle we cannot name and the devil we cannot rout” (from “For Everything a Season”). The “Prodigal Son” teaches us that we come to know ourselves through losses that can free us to see who we really are and what we’re really made of. The gift of self-knowledge we gain is, above all else, a lesson in humility—a simple and unimpeded view of ourselves as we are before God. Through faith and trust in God’s provident love, patience, and willingness to always welcome us home, loss and adversity can become opportunities for conversion, reconciliation, and joy (Luke 15:20 passim).