The girl’s skin was fragrant silk. Her eyes were dark, and they sparkled like stars and their light was all for him. It was just as he had imagined when he was back on the farm, a young hick staring into the night sky. He caressed the coins in his pocket – they were his ticket into the city, into real life – then glanced up to see another man walk into the room. She studied the man, too, in her careful, businesslike way, then quickly turned back to him and smiled.
It was that way here. People were not simply themselves, as they had been at home. It took a trained eye to see a man – the cut of his clothing, the style of his shoe, the ring on his finger – the signs of his quality.
Take his father, for example. All that money, but you would never know by looking at him. Up before the sun, mucking around in the barn and fields. A good man, but also a fool, squandering his life on work and kids when there is so much more… Things he probably never imagined.
The young man leaned back, saw his girl look across the room, saw the other man staring at her. Time to go. The heavy bag of coins he had carried into the city was lighter now; so many had gone to her, to food and drink and rooms. But she was fond of him, he thought, in her careful, businesslike way, and his investments would soon come through.
* * *
They were standing in his room a few weeks later, and his investments had not come through. Her skin was silk, and her dark hair gleamed like the moon on water as she bent to pack her few things and flounce out the door. He listened to her footsteps fade, felt the familiar knot in his stomach, pulled out his last two coins, and tossed the empty bag on the bed.
The room was quiet and cluttered, and the owner would be here soon, looking for rent. He threw on a coat and stuffed a robe in his satchel, looked carefully down the hall, and slipped out the back door.
He took the nearest road out of town and trudged away with nowhere to go. He stopped at farms and took odd jobs – anything to put food in his mouth for another day. His soft hands were soon blistered, his soft clothes stained and ragged. Often at night, alone with the animals, he would think of his father, whom he had traded for the coins – the old fool who stuffed half of his fortune in the bag while his older brother stood glaring. He remembered his mother’s final embrace, her dark hair smelling of flowers, her dark eyes sparkling with tears.
He had so wanted to be away. To be someone. Only to realize, shivering here in a stranger’s barn, that he had been someone. Had robbed them to become no one.
He remembered his soft bed, remembered family dinners as his soft belly growled. Even his father’s servants were warm and fed – the old fool treated them like family. The old fool, whose soft heart he had so often mocked. Who always found something for the vagrants passing by, who never left anyone in the cold…
The young man stood and brushed the straw off his tattered clothes, took a deep breath. The moon was high, and dew was glistening on the grass like tears, and he knew what he had done to them. But how he longed to see them. To be someone again, if only their slave.
He walked through the long hours of the night, rehearsing his speech, and limped over the final hill just as the sun was rising. Numb with hunger and cold, he stared down at the old house and barn lying in shadow below, wondering where he would go if they turned him away.
A shape came hustling out of the barn, turned toward the hill, and suddenly stopped…
“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
* * *
Jesus told this story about us. We have all been lost and have all turned away from the Father who made us and loves us. At LIFE International, we tell the story of God’s great love for every human life and his compassion to all who come home.
This story is a dramatization of a parable told by Jesus in Luke 15.