When Simba Came Home - Sunday of the Prodigal Son

You are more than what you have become.
- Mufasa to Simba, The Lion King

I was nine years old when I saw The Lion King for the first time. The death of Mufasa was unbearable (it isn’t much easier now), so I cried. I still watch the movie and weep, but as I’ve gotten older, the reason for my tears has changed.

When I saw the movie for the first time, I wept for the loss of Mufasa. When I watch it now, I weep for the loss of Simba. In losing his father, Simba loses himself. It is the prophetic Rafiki that tells him, who reminds him, “You’re Mufasa’s boy.”

So who is Simba after Mufasa’s gone?

At first, Simba ran away from the pain and loss of his life to embrace “Hakuna Matata,” a life with no worries, further losing himself. But in the end, he had to confront himself and his father, and he had to reckon with his past.

This tragedy finally begins to be healed when, after a sprint through the jungle, Simba finds himself confronted by his departed father, who reminds him once more, “You are my son, and the one true king…You are more than what you have become.”

And this is the part that causes me to weep today.

Mufasa graciously gives Simba back the gift of his person. Simba, a lion without a father, has forgotten who he is; but in remembering his father, he remembers himself. There is something deeply powerful about this. And it is only then that he has enough courage to return to Pride Rock and claim his place as king.

I have a lot in common with Simba. I, too, often try to flee into a “Hakuna Matata” way of life that neglects reality, and in so doing, I lose myself. Hiding behind comfort, behind good food, behind good television, I fail to attend to the reality of my life, and I forget who and Whose I am.

At the beginning of the Triodion period, as we prepare for Lent, the Church, as she does every year puts the Prodigal Son before us, reminding us that we, too, are far from home.

Like Simba and the Prodigal Son, we have left the land of our Father, and have settled for a way of life that is unbecoming for us, eating grubs and pig food (slimy, yet satisfying).

Like these two, we also are more than what we have become.

The Prodigal Son, shows us, however, that the path home is not simply a return to a place: it is also a return to oneself. In this return we are reminded of who we really are: Children of the Merciful Father, who treats even His servants better than we deserve.

This Sunday, the Lord is inviting us to confront ourselves. He is inviting us to “come back to ourselves,” to realize that we have abandoned the house of our Father, and that He is graciously welcoming us home. And now it’s up to us to turn back to the Father and to reckon with ourselves.

As we stand at the entry to Great and Holy Lent, we may be tempted to think that our first move should be to accuse ourselves of being sinful. But the parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us that the first movement of Great Lent in our hearts ought to be a reaffirmation of the Goodness of the Father.

The son does not despair of his hope but, trusting in the mercy of his father, he is emboldened to go back home. And it is precisely because of this confidence, because of his assurance in the mercy of his father, that the son feels brave enough to confess his sins.

We, too, are called back to the home of the Father: not to pretend that all is well, but to trust that He is gracious enough to forgive all that has happened! The goal of Lent is to return to oneself, to understand that one is not simply a sinner, but a forgiven sinner.

We must reckon with ourselves as we stand in the confidence that God has forgiven and continues to forgive us.

This Lent, I want to seek further self-understanding. I want to grapple with the depth of my sinfulness, not because I want to roll in the muck with the pigs, but because I want to know how much the Father loves me, which I see as He lovingly embraces me when I return home covered in pig muck. 

I want to plumb the depths of my own heart, not because I’m excited to see the darkness, but because I want to see how far the Lord has descended into the crypt of my soul in order to raise me from the dead.

This Lent is an opportunity for us to see the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. That God is merciful, gracious, and kind. That we are silly, stupid, and sinful.

We are more than what we have become. We are children of the Father, and this Lent He is calling us Home. Let us return quickly and confidently, trusting that as we draw near to Him, we will see that He has been waiting for us all along. 

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.