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To Know That Someone Waits: Finding Our Way Back to God

Gerrit Scott Dawson

When we feel far from home, what would happen if we realized that someone waits for us—waits to forgive us and to celebrate our return?

Read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24.

In the epilogue of Dostoyevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment, we read of the beginning of renewal for the story’s main character, Raskolnikov. Toward the beginning of the story, Raskolnikov had murdered an old woman pawnbroker, feeling no remorse and justifying his act as ridding society of an undesirable. Throughout the epic, he was wholly absorbed in himself—a narcissist fit for the twentieth century.

Crime and Punishment cover imageThough Raskolnikov is certainly an unattractive character, one woman loved him all along. Sonia even followed Raskolnikov all the way to the Siberian work camp where he was sentenced to seven years of hard labor for his crime. She came to the fence every day to speak with him during their brief breaks in the work.

For a long time Raskolnikov spurned her presence. It meant nothing to him. He would remain quiet when he was with her, as if annoyed. Then Raskolnikov fell ill and was placed in the hospital ward for many weeks.

Raskolnikov’s condition improved slowly. One evening he felt strong enough to rise from his bed and go to the window. He looked out and saw Sonia standing at the hospital gate; she appeared to be waiting for something. “Something stabbed him to the heart at that minute.” He realized that every day he had been ill, unable to rise, believing himself alone in his misery, Sonia had come to the gate to wait awhile for him.

Raskilnikov looked for Sonia eagerly the next day. But she did not come. Nor the next day. And then Raskolnikov understood that he was waiting for Sonia. Before, Sonia had been the one waiting; now he was waiting for Sonia. Before it had made no difference to him, but now he was expecting her. Before he loathed her; now he discovered that as he waited for her, he loved her.

When they met again at last, Raskolnikov found that “all at once something seemed to seize him and fling him at her feet. He wept and threw his arms around her knees.” Sonia had outwaited his self-absorption until love broke through to him at last. The one so far from home, in Siberia and detached from his own soul, finally understood that someone had waited for him every day. He reconnected to life and came home to himself.

 

teen at fence2 TSP 57281953Someone Waits

There is one who waits for us. He stands every day in the yard looking up at the ward where we lie on a bed, mired in thoughts of our condition. He comes every day and stands in the cold winter light, and he waits while we think life is only this sick bed and the wants of our illness. He waits in the yard for the evening when we get up and look out the window and see him there, and our hearts are stabbed. Someone is waiting for me to come home! . . . He has not waited begrudgingly; he is not angry. . . . He just wants us in his arms.

 

DIG DEEPER

Read Luke 15:11–24 again. Imagine that you are the younger son (or daughter), longing to return home. Prepare your homecoming speech. Reflect on your life and on any ways in which you feel far from home.

Gerrit Scott Dawson is a Presbyterian pastor. This article is excerpted from his book, Heartfelt: Finding Our Way Back to God.

—from devozine (November/December 1996). Copyright © 1996 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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