By definition, a cliché is anything that has become trite or commonplace through overuse. One of the most overused clichés is the God works in mysterious ways. But that’s the thing with clichés. Just like off-color jokes we laugh at, we laugh at them because they based on truth.
Imagine you’re sitting at home, minding your own business, watching TV and getting high. A frozen dinner, a can of Coke and a syringe with crystal meth lay on the coffee table in front you. Just a typical Monday evening. All of the sudden, a SWAT team comes barging through your front door. All you see are laser pointers. All you hear is “Get down. Get down!” All you can think about is what the hell is going on.
By the time you realize you’ve been raided, arrested and booked for possession, you’re sitting in a dimly lit room, unable to control your nerves from shaking your body, and asking yourself how you ever let it get this bad. You think about what happens next and how you’ll ever be able to recover from this. “What will they all think? What will they say? How can I ever look them in the eye and ask them for help?” You sit in your dimly lit room with the reality that you’ve hit rock bottom weighing you down like a ton of bricks.
I will always maintain that I am the luckiest and most blessed person on earth. For the most part, I’ve never experienced immense failure or extreme loss. My life has been pretty text book for as long as I can remember. Even my recent dark times, the times when I felt my world was collapsing and I was all alone, I look back on them now with a different perspective. I see it as a forest through which I had to travel, and I know without a doubt that is pales in comparison to real tragedy.
I’ve never had that seismic event in my life. I’ve never been to the point where all my belongings were taken from me, where all my civil innocence was revoked and where it seemed that even all my dignity had been so instantaneously depleted. Embarrassment, humiliation, degradation; I’ve never had to exist in a constant state of those emotions.
Life is not without its challenges, and everyone struggles just a little bit every day. Yet there is something to be said about the individuals who seem to get it correct from the beginning. The people who place their faith in God and allow God’s will to guide them through life. What seems like mountainous adversities for us are mere speed bumps for them. Their faith is so strong, their conviction so solid, and their resolve to make lemonade in a hail storm of lemons should be applauded and celebrated.
Still, I think we can all relate to the keystone parable from the Bible. It’s the story about being selfish, ignoring wisdom and pursuing frivolous desires. It’s the tale about losing direction, realizing our mistakes and seeking contrition with those we have wronged. It’s the one about a journey back home, the long and arduous journey in hopes of being received with open arms, and one that takes a hell of a lot more than just 12 steps. It’s about being lost and then becoming found again.
All too often we allow ourselves to focus on the mistake, so much so we overlook the efforts of atonement that are made as a result. In its own way, salvation – personal, religious or otherwise – should be celebrated in the same manner as the lemonade maker who serves as a beacon for those who are lost. Actions have their consequences and retribution for these actions should never be waived. Yet rather than a swift hand to the behind of the wrongdoer, we should instead pat this person on the back as a gesture of encouragement and a reminder that things can be made better once again.
By definition, the word prodigal means wastefully or recklessly extravagant. Yet the parable which bears this word in its title leads us to associate this word with repentance, forgiveness and redemption. With our ears we hear this word and in our minds we understand that rock bottom is just the starting point of a new life. We recognize that new beginnings are attainable, and that with God all things are possible. Life is indeed a journey and there’s nothing cliché about that.