A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. Luke 15:13 (NRSV)
The distant country in my life was a literal one. In the summer of 1965, just after turning twenty-one, I packed my bags and headed to Brazil. I was accompanied by several other young Americans, all going to Latin America to be in mission work on behalf of the Methodist Church in Duque de Caxias, Brazil. We were part of the young people’s revolution of the 1960’s. But I had my own agenda as well. Independence from family ties and beliefs had come late to me and I was going to Brazil to find the elusive goal of freedom.
While I know that I accomplished a great deal of good while in Brazil, those accomplishments were negated by my own immature decisions and accentuated by a growing psychosis. I had undergone tremendous scrutiny in order to be accepted for this mission, but I now believe I was one who “slipped in” without being properly diagnosed.
I lived a double life in Brazil. I pursued the acceptable standards in Duque de Caxias with my American and Brazilian friends; the other life I tried to enjoy, at least for a short time, in the fabulous Rio de Janeiro. I do not believe that this pattern of my living needs to portray the graphic side of my sins. Needless to say, I squandered all of my spirituality and ended up eating “husks of corn” as the parable so poignantly describes. By the time I left Brazil in late 1968, I was a “nervous breakdown” on the verge of happening.
There are bad patterns as well as good ones that we can follow. While there will always be aspects of my life that will cause me shame, after thirty rears I know that I have come home to my Father’s house. A former prodigal son, I want to spend time the rest of my life sharing my positive patterns for living with others.
You may pray this prayer with me: “Dear God, thank You for not giving up on me during those years that I was away from Your home. Thank You for forgiving me my sins. Now may Christ in my life be a pattern for others to follow all the way back to Your house. Amen.”