Luke wiped his grubby hand across his eyes and smudged the tears and dirt. His steps were slow and heavy and matched the litany drumming in his mind. She doesn’t care. No one does. It’ll be best if I’m gone. Then they’ll be happy.
The bag over his shoulder was heavy and his arm was aching. Sitting down on a rotten tree stump, he removed his toy canteen from the bag and gratefully gulped the water.
Maybe when Dad gets home and hears how Mom treated me… maybe they’ll come looking for me. Or maybe he’ll be mad, too. The tears made fresh tracks through the dirt smudges and Luke again brushed them away. After taking another drink he returned the canteen to his bag and hefted the lightened load onto his other shoulder. He needed to keep moving. They would all be looking for him.
It was hard to push his way through the deep grass. Grasshoppers kept popping out and he had to keep his mouth tightly closed or he’d have a mouthful of tiny gnats. “Ah-choo!” Uh-oh! I forgot to bring tissues. His sleeve smeared more than dirt this time.
Been gone most of the day. It must be almost time for supper. The fresh cow pie was hidden until his sneaker squished into it. He blamed his watery eyes on the smell. After all, seven years old was too big to be a cry-baby.
Finally Luke made it to the shelter of a huge oak tree. He sank down on the far side of it and leaned back against the trunk.
What a horrible day. He had disobeyed Mom and was spanked and sent to his room. Instead of coming down when he was ready to apologize, Luke had packed his bag and slipped out when she wasn’t looking. Now he was far away where no one would ever find him.
Luke’s growling stomach reminded him that he had missed lunch. Opening his bag, he pulled out a package of stale, crumbly crackers he found under his bed. She’ll know I’m starving. That should make her sorry.
He thought that the book he'd brought would help pass the time, but Cookie Monster just reminded him of the yummy smells in the kitchen as he was leaving. The tears started again. Maybe I’ll never eat another one of Mommy’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies ever again!
A feeling of wetness spreading through Luke's jeans brought him to the realization that the ground under the tree was damp from last night’s rain. This is getting worser and worser. He looked around for a dryer place to sit and then noticed the darkened sky. The clouds were black and ominous. A storm is coming. What if a tornado comes and sucks me up? Then the rain started. And Luke realized that all he wanted was to be in his Mommy’s arms.
He grabbed his bag and ran back the way he had come. The downpour wouldn’t keep him from making the long journey home. I’ll beg Mommy to forgive me and promise to never disobey again. Maybe she’ll let me have some cookies and hot cocoa. I sure am hungry. And wet… and cold. And alone.
Darla stood at the sink watching the sprinkles of rain make patterns on the patio. It wasn’t much and it would be gone just as quickly as it had come. The little black cloud was already toodling it’s way across the sky. And Luke was toodling down the hill from the upper pasture. She had known he wouldn’t go far or be gone long. It was obvious even from here that his demeanor had changed. His adventure had taught him a lesson that her anger hadn’t.
As she had watched Luke hike his way up the pasture and away from her, Darla had realized that her day had been spent the same way… avoiding and even running from God, when He was waiting for her to turn and throw herself into His welcoming arms. She decided against going after Luke, and used the time to pray and keep an eye on him.
Darla had spent the last half hour watching her son’s battle and giving her own struggles over to her Daddy. This morning’s irritability had been replaced with the intense joy of her restored relationship. She dished up some soup for her Prodigal and pulled the cookies out of the oven. He would be hungry. They could talk after he finished lunch.
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