Did you ever start in one direction, confident that it was the right path, only to find yourself descending into chaos, confusion, and doubt? Was it college, career, a relationship, or even a new hobby that seemed capable of transforming your life but ultimately collapsed around you? Anyone who has ever taken a risk in any facet of life has experienced the messiness of hopes and dreams gone awry.
We find what seems to be the perfect profession, only to become disillusioned when the reality of our work life bumps up against the idealism with which we approach it. That college that everyone said was “the best”? We can’t wait to view it in the rearview mirror, driving away for the final time, heading toward an unknown future. All of us have been hurt, intentionally or accidentally, by someone we considered the perfect friend, colleague, spouse, or teammate, such that wallowing in pain becomes a habit difficult to break. Sometimes we convince ourselves that all will be well if we simply are disciplined enough to earn that black belt in karate, sell our artwork, become proficient in Spanish, or learn to play the harp, but neither the process nor the outcome satisfies.
When our enthusiasm and certainty crumble, when everyone and everything has disappointed us, what then? How do we evolve and change so that our lives can begin to move forward with purpose and meaning? The prodigal son had a solution. His situation improved radically when he faced himself and what he had become and was willing to take action, albeit at the cost of humbling himself before his father.
Can we emulate the prodigal son in the 21st century? Do we have the courage to try? Or do we prefer to remain mired in disillusionment and thus content to feed pigs* for the rest of our days?