I took a road trip this weekend--it was part work and part pleasure. I had to drive to Chattanooga to meet with a traumatic brain injury council for work, but also had a little bit of free time to explore the area.
I talked with a friend on Day 1, and he told me to make it a goal to explore and try two new things that day. There was plenty to explore, so I knew my goal would be much higher. I made a few mental calculations about meeting times and such, and tried to figure out what I might like to do that was new and exciting.
I realized this may have been the first time in a LONG time that I took the time to do whatever I pleased, and explored the world around me. After thinking about it for a while, I realized it was probably a good four years or more (which is terribly pathetic).
So, I decided that between meetings I would venture over to the Bluff View Arts District in downtown Chattanooga. I had never really ventured around the area, and I am sure there were plenty of things I could see.
I went to the Bluff View Bakery and watched them make artisan breads (and bought a pretzel the size of my head!). I stopped in at the Rembrandt's Roasting Company, and talked to the Apprentice to the Roastmaster. He showed me how coffee beans were roasted, which was an incredibly cool experience.
I stopped in at an art gallery and took a look around, then went over to Rembrandt's to grab a cup of coffee. Of course, it was sunny and there was a cool breeze, so I snapped tons of photos of the view. I traveled into the sculpture gallery to sit and enjoy my snack, and took a long stroll past all of the art.
I don't know how to describe moments like these- I just wish I had a camera that could capture sensory experiences. As I sat on a bench and looked around me, there was a cool gentle breeze, I could feel the heat of the sunshine on my head, and I heard the clanging of a set of artsy wind-chimes. In the background, I could hear the cars soaring over the bridges. I closed my eyes so I could drink in this feeling. I desperately wanted to remember this experience, so I could draw upon its serenity during times of distress (which, unfortunately, happens all too often lately).
When I opened my eyes, I turned to look behind me before getting up. Before me stood a giant bronze statue. I looked at it closely, and saw two men embracing and wrapped in some sort of fabric. Of course, I needed to know what this statue was, so I stood up and moved closer. It was The Prodigal Son, and the statue was of a father embracing his son.
I sat for quite a while and looked at this piece. I don't know the extent of others' religious backgrounds, but many people are familiar of the story of The Prodigal Son. The gist is that a man has two sons, and gives them each their inheritance. One son spends his money wisely and does what he is told. The other son spends his money on wild times with prostitutes, and does not follow the wisdom of his father. When the second son returns, the father embraces him and throws a feast in his honor. The first son is furious (and jealous) and proclaims that the father never threw a feast for him for doing the right thing. The father says "But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found." Luke 15:32.
I think we have all had times like this in our life. We know we don't do the right thing, and we worry about facing our fears and owning up to our problems. On the other end, do we ever really embrace people that have returned "from the dead" and have become alive again? It seems like this world makes people believe it is ok to rally against fellow man. When we watch television or read any popular culture, it is celebrated to be lost and almost seems easiest to stay that way. We don't readily embrace those that make the tough decision to live again after death.
I know I am not alone when I say that I have made bad decisions in my life. I know each one of us has done things that were not good. The key is in making it right, owning up to who you are, and facing the fear of humility and repentance. This isn't even a religious discussion--I am talking about everyone of every background. I can't say that I am a terribly spiritual person- I believe there are greater themes among all the religions that kind of blend together. And I know that religion or spirituality isn't for everyone, but I do know that this story resonates with many of us. We have all had times where we have gone astray--to the dark recesses of the world--and we fear how we will be received when we choose to come back to life. I am fortunate enough to say that when I returned from my dark place, I was embraced by these same strong, open arms.