Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Far Country

This is a far country, not my home. -Andrew Peterson

Exhausted from the day’s toil, the man leans against a tree to rest. Its knotty trunk makes an uncomfortable recliner, and the scant canopy above offers little protection from the scorching sun. With sweaty brow and squinted eyes, he can’t help but think of the place where he grew up, an idyllic and spacious plot filled with lush trees, fresh orchards, and four rivers, all crisp, cold and clear enough to cleanse down into his soul.

But all that is gone now.

It is a sad life that is lived most fully through memories, through echoes of and longings for things that can never be regained. At times like these, when the hardships of his predicament are more evident, he feels the gravity of the situation more strongly. But there is never a time when he doesn’t bear the scars of past decisions or when the subtle ache doesn’t occupy his heart.

In former days, back in his native land, he walked in cool shade with soft grass beneath his bare feet. The sun was a soft and pleasant companion, not the relentless antagonist he now knows. Food was abundant, and even when he worked the land, it seemed like a hobby rather than manual labor.

Companionship with his God and with his wife was easy. Intimacy was a way of life, and honesty in relationships was the unfailing standard. Everything, especially interacting with one another, seemed a whole lot simpler.

But all that is irredeemable past. All because of one lapse of judgment.


Coming in from the pasture, the man’s youngest son calls him out of the dismal daydream. Enraptured in reverie, he hadn’t even heard his son approach.

"Yes, son?"

"What was it like?"

This son had always been bright and insightful. He thinks differently than his elder brother and has the uncanny ability to ask questions that pierced straight to the heart of the matter, even when he doesn’t know what the matter was. This instance is a perfect example.

The man knows fully what the son is asking. It is the same question he always asks, with that same expectant gleam in his eye. Each time, though, the man tries to keep from answering. Recalling the memories of his youth, although sometimes therapeutic, is usually heart-wrenching as well.

"What was what like?" the man replies.

"You know, your home growing up." The son, the keeper of the family flocks, had heard stories at the dinner table about the succulent fruit, the verdant pastures and the wild hiking trails where his mother and father had romped during their younger years. He wants to pack up and move there, but his parents tell him that it’s too far, beyond the edge of this world even, so he settles for whatever tidbits of information he can get out of his father.

The man, who’s getting on in age, furrows his brow as he ponders his answer. This time he’s going to tell the whole story. His son is old enough to know where he comes from and where he truly belongs.

"Well, son, I’m sorry you’ve had to grow up in a foreign land," he says with a tear in his eye. "But I’m going to tell you about my true home and yours…"

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