Every so often the familiar and even somewhat predictable “amnesia scenario” is resurrected for another made-for-TV-movie or sitcom. The actor stares blankly into once-loved faces and professes no recognition whatsoever. Places, sounds, smells, even names–nothing seems familiar. Memory has been lost; hence, a sense of identity has been lost as well.
And that is exactly what has happened to us–all of us. We have lost our memory. Like the prodigal son’s older brother who toiled endlessly and joyously in the fields, we have forgotten who we are and where we came from. But the forgetting goes beyond the pigsty from which the Father has rescued the prodigals. It extends back to the beginning–to a time when our identity was secure in our fellowship with the Father.
Before the rebellion…
Before the fall…
Before the exile.
As a result, our world is in the midst of an ongoing identity crisis. We walk around, day after day, year after year, generation after generation, trying to find our way back to….somewhere…. hoping that when we get there, someone will recognize us and tell us who we are.
The problem is, even if we figure out where that “somewhere” is, we cannot get ourselves back there, contrary to a song that was popular in the late ’60s and early ’70s that proclaimed the need to get ourselves back to the Garden.
The Garden–that “somewhere” that calls to us from the deepest recesses of our heart. The songwriters had that much right. They knew where we came from, and they were trying to express our universal longing and need to return. But they were wrong in thinking we could get ourselves back there, even though our homesickness almost overwhelms us at times, beckoning us,to the Garden, where we once lived, even if only in the loins of Adam. To the Garden, where we once walked in intimate fellowship with our Father in the cool of the evening. To the Garden, where we once had dominion over the plants and the animals and the birds. To the Garden, where sin had no place and death did not reign–and hard hearts were unimagined.
But we made a choice to go our own way, and so we had to leave. As beautiful and as perfect as it was, we stubbornly and rebelliously–although ignorantly and regrettably–packed our bags and chose to leave, to run away, to do our own thing, go our own way, run our own lives — to be the masters of our own fate. And now, like the foolish six-year-old who leaves home with nothing more than a baseball glove and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, we find ourselves adrift in the dark night, the cold wind whistling down our necks as we shiver, wondering if we will discover who we are and where we came from–before it’s too late.
Of course, like the prodigal son, we can turn around and go back to the Father, but not to the Garden. When we left the Garden, the Father stationed angels to guard the entrance. No one who left could come back in, despite the fact that millions have tried, using any means at their disposal: drugs, alcohol, sex, money, power, education, success, religion, other people.
And the world continues to try to find the way back, longing for the Garden but rejecting the Father. As a result, they are doomed to fail…and to continue to wander aimlessly, still lost in the universal identity crisis that is common to all mankind.
No, we can’t go back to the Garden; we can only return to the Father. And, according to Jesus in John 14:6, there is only one way to get to the Father: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” For those of us who have found that One Way, may we recommit ourselves to lighting the Way for the lost who are even now stumbling down the road that leads to nowhere…
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
***Adapted from “Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World” by Kathi Macias.