So many things are learned on mountain tops. Recently, our 11 year old son walked 56 miles on the Appalachian Trail with Boy Scouts. The area he landed was close to the area that we were planning to vacation, so we met the group on the mountain.
The GPS is usually pretty accurate, but it began to fail in the mountains. We took a turn that dead-ended in a neighborhood and resumed the trip. We followed our GPS and made a right turn onto a highway towards our destination. Little did we know, our destination was actually to the left.
We knew when we saw the next turn that it probably wasn’t correct. The highway was narrow without a center lane marking, and the campground where we were to meet them had campers and trailers. But hoping it was a shortcut back to where we wanted to be, we followed it anyway. The road continued to narrow. For a while, we could have turned around at any point. Then, we were instructed by the GPS to turn up a narrow gravel road. There was only room for one car, and we wondered if there was even room enough for the van. Still hoping that this was the right path we kept going past the last opportunity to turn around.
We saw the sign after a few minutes of very steep climbing on a winding, mountain road. “Dead End.” At this point, no option to keep going or gracefully turn around existed.
There is a song in the musical Footloose that says “Once you drive up a mountain, you can’t back down.” Well, you can. It’s not easy though. It was a treacherous inch-by-inch journey down the hill with the cliff on one side and the rock of the mountain on the other.
Oh, what a relief it was to be back on the right path! What we thought would be a shortcut was a dangerous road that drew us in until we we were trapped. I’ve reflected on other “mountains” that I’ve climbed – decisions that I made knowing they were wrong – decisions I kept making until they met a dead end. Contrary to the song, you can back down a mountain, but you have to swallow a mountain of pride to do so.
Jesus tells us about the prodigal son’s backing down experience. He had taken a stand to be on his own and foolishly wasted his inheritance. When he finally backed down, he was warmly welcomed by the father. As was I; as you will be, too.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But 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.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.