Baryshnikov, the Cat and the Prodigal

The Gospel for the fourth Sunday in Lent: Luke 15:1-3;11-32

by Liz Goodyear-Jones

I once saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dance the Prodigal. He was a young man and dancing the part of the prodigal son. It was full of his extraordinary leaps and pirouettes and generally awed the crowds with his magnificence. However, it was not he, but his “father”, that I remember with the greatest of emotions.

Just to put this in real time, as I was typing this, my little cat escaped over our fence, off to live his life in revelry. My first response was, “Fine. You just go and find your own way back”. (This jumping the fence is a seasonal occurrence of his, by the way).

My second response was to call on my neighbors, who were gone to church.  Then my husband. One of my dearest discoveries about life is the way community is important for life to work well. 

My neighbor has that doorbell, that shows up on their phone. They called me, from church. Gave me permission to hunt in their yard. He was not there, but their neighbor’s gate was open enough for me to look through. There he was, crying and running towards me at the same time. Found and all’s well that ends well, to coin a phrase.

It was the neighborly father who answered the phone; my own husband/father who helped me hunt, gave me solace and carried a scared house kitty home. And it was Baryshnikov’s dancing father who was the reflection of God’s everlasting love.

For as Mikhail dragged himself back from the pigs, across the gloomy barren stage, the father entered stage right and with one stride reached his son and with one arm swept that six foot man up into his arms and over his heart. 

Even now tears in my eyes and a profound thank you to the One who never gives up on us, but is there stage right ready to sweep us up, cherishing us in his arms, bringing us home from our wildernesses.

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