Police raided an open field full of underage drinkers recently in Holmes County, Ohio. You may think this sounds familiar. You may have been a part of some open field parties yourself in your younger days. But this one was unique. The raid happened when 45 police officers descended on a party that was part of a Rumspringa.
Rumspringa is an Amish rite of passage. The word means “running around.” For Amish youth, Rumspringa usually begins around the age of 14-16. Teens are allowed freedom to leave the community and experiment with the world outside. After this season they come back to the community with a choice to make. They can either choose baptism with the Amish church or leave the community permanently and choose to live in the world.
But during Rumspringa some do some pretty radical things. Like buying a television. Or driving a car instead of a horse-drawn buggy. Some forgo the traditional clothing and hairstyles and go modern.
And some try out alcohol. That’s what led to a gathering of Amish kids in an open field in Ohio where beer was running as free as the Rumspringa teens. Imagine the regrets voiced while 75 were sitting in the local jailhouse.
You and I have some regrets too. We’ve probably had our own forms of a Rumspringa. We just call it by other names: “sowing our wild oats,” “Spring Break at the beach,” or “mid-life crisis I’m buying a Harley-springa.”
There may be someone reading this on a Rumspringa right now. Some running around. Experimenting with something taboo. Flirting with something outside your boundaries. And you may be setting yourself up for regret.
We all have them. Even if we have already found our way to God there are many other times we have to find our way back to God. We wander from him. We do things we know we shouldn’t or maybe things we don’t realize will harm us. And we have regrets.
The younger son had them. He took an early withdrawal of his inheritance, went to a foreign land, and squandered it all. The story says that he “came to his senses” and made a decision to “arise and go” to his father.
When we come to our senses and awaken to our regret we repent. “Repent” sounds churchy, but it really isn’t. It is a compound Greek word made up of “mind” and “change.” Repentance, then, is a changing of our mind or our way of thinking. The Hebrew word for repent means “to return.”
The younger son had to change the way he was thinking about life. He had searched for something to satisfy his longing for love, purpose and meaning. When he hit rock bottom he realized the longing was still there.
And maybe sitting in pig squalor can help a person discover the real longing is for home. So he repented—he changed his direction—and headed home. Repentance can involve emotion. Some repent and tears flow. But repentance has more to do with motion. All repent and then go. True repentance propels us to go in a new direction. The younger son’s was towards his father.
Many of us have “come to our senses.” We can recognize decisions we’ve made that led us to places we one day regretted. But regret doesn’t get us home. That’s the second step that many people never get to. We want to change, we want to start over, we want a mulligan. But shame, guilt and even fear get in our way. We ask: “Will they accept me?” “Will they take me in?” “Could God ever forgive someone like me?”
And the answer is “Yes, yes he can. And yes yes he will.” The father welcomes his son home with an embrace. The Father will do the same for you.
Go home to him. He’ll run out to greet you. And that’s a better story than all the running around we could ever do.
Question: What direction are you going today? Do you need to change direction?