The far country

Published 3:41 pm Sunday, March 27, 2022

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By MICHAEL J. BROOKS | Guest Columnist

A grandson was with me a few years ago when he picked up something and puzzled over it.

“Papa, what’s this?” he asked.

He held a roadmap. At the time, I’m sure I had at least three in the car from our and neighboring states. A colleague once taught me to stop at rest areas in new states and get fresh roadmaps to keep in the car.

This experience gave an opportunity to launch into a grandfather story.

“Brooks,” I said, “a long, long time ago, in a far distant land, ancient peoples used these documents to chart their travels across the planet, until God in his goodness gave us the Garmin!”

I didn’t tell him how distracted we were in the day when we unfolded the roadmap on our laps and attempted to read it while driving.

I only remember one “epic fail” when either it or I messed up in West Virginia. We drove all night attempting to find the interstate instead of the dark and desolate country roads we were on—the ones John Denver sang about so appealingly.

One of Jesus’ most well-known stories is what we call that of the prodigal son. “Prodigal” isn’t a word we use much these days, though I remember my mother often declared “the prodigal is home” when as an adult I came home to visit, though she said it with a laugh.

The younger son in the story decided he wanted out of the father’s house. He wanted to find new adventures to celebrate and to spend his money on pleasure. In effect, he told the father he couldn’t wait for death to claim his inheritance; he wanted it then. We have no record of the wise father arguing with him. He simply divided his estate.

Then the boy went to the far country.

I’ve often wondered where this was.

If we searched on a roadmap or typed “far country” on our GPS or cellphone, where would it take us? I rather doubt we’d find it on the other side of the globe. The far country might be down the street. The elder brother has been called “the prodigal who stayed home” since he didn’t leave but neither did he have the father’s love in his heart. Thus, the far country isn’t so much a place as an attitude. If we reject the father’s plan we’re in a far country no matter the ZIP code.

Home is where the father is.

Home is such a better place than the far country.