A Homecoming Story

My cousin, Heath was a few years older than me. I really looked up to him. As an only child, I did a lot of playing by myself. Whenever I was playing alone, I would pretend I was playing with Heath. For example, I would go out in the yard with my plastic bat and ball, lob the ball up in the air, swing and hit it across the yard pretending that Heath was the ace pitcher, Allan Anderson, for the Minnesota Twins and I was Sid Bream of the Atlanta Braves.
One spring evening in 1988 (I was 8 years old), Heath and I were together visiting at my grandparents’ home in Pope, MS. That day, Heath had brought a pocketknife. He was infatuated with this knife. He would pull it out, unfold it, shave some hair on his arm, fold it back up, and stick it in his pocket. He and grandpa came to blows over the pocketknife, and he told Heath to put it up or he was going to take it away.
Angry at grandpa, Heath decided that we should take a walk. We crossed a rickety bridge over the ditch that ran behind the house. A few yards beyond the ditch was the tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad. We placed a quarter on the track and waited for a train to come by and flatten it, but we got bored waiting for the train and decided to go for a walk down the track. 
“Hey, look at that bridge up there,” Heath said noticing a pair of rusted trusses about a half a mile in the distance. “Let’s go throw rocks off it!”
After reaching the bridge and throwing a few rocks, we quickly got bored again and kept walking in search of more interesting stuff. As we continued farther and farther away from where we started we found railroad spikes, old rusty barrels, nuts and bolts, tools, and glass insulators that we presumed to be from the days of the telegraph. Soon, we spotted a huge bridge in the distance. It was the bridge over the Tallahatchie River. It was too interesting not to check out.
By the time we reached the Tallahatchie River, the day was fading into the evening. We suddenly realized how far we had walked. Worse, we heard a train coming. We hit the ditch to avoid getting hit by the train or seen by the conductor. By this time, I was terrified.
As we made our way back to the crossing where we first laid the quarter on the track, the sky grew darker and darker. Two more trains came by and two more times we had to hide in the ditch beside the tracks. Directly, we noticed red and blue lights bouncing off the clouds in the direction of the crossing where we had begun our journey. We concluded that it must be another bigger train that was coming for us. 
I never felt more relief than when I saw the headlights of my dad’s four-wheeler coming down the tracks. I expected him to be mad. He wasn’t. Dad was so relieved to find us. When we reached the crossing where we started, we discovered the source of the red and blue lights. Our parents had called the fire department, the sheriff, the game wardens, the county rescue team, and the highway patrol to come and search for us. My mom hugged me tighter than she ever had before. 
This story serves as a good parable for life and our walk with the Lord. Often times, we wander away. The enemy strings us along with temptation. He puts shiny things in front of us that promise to complete our lives and heal our brokenness. Those shiny things never hold our attention for very long until he shows us the next thing leading us farther and farther away and into a darker and darker place.
Once we come to our senses and determine to make our way back to Him, not only do we find that He is ready to receive us back… we find that he has been pursuing us all along. We find that he has pulled out all the stops to find us and win us back to Him. 2 Chronicles 30:9 says, “the Lord is gracious and merciful and will not turn away His face from you if you return to Him.” If you have wandered astray, then you know the way back to Him. He will welcome you with the warmest embrace. You too will have a homecoming story to tell.