Never have I read a better contemporary illustration of the story of the prodigal son than I’ve read in Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan.
Yet it is not the story of one prodigal. It’s the story of two. And perhaps three, and more. Though it may be hard for many of us who call ourselves Christian to recognize ourselves in this story, the fact is we are there, too.
Christopher Yuan comes from an upper middle class family in Chicago. His father Leon is a dentist; his mother Angela a homemaker who also serves as her husband’s business administrator. Christopher goes to college and then medical/dental school, the expectation being that he will join the family practice. On the surface, the life of the Yuan family seems placid, stable and normal.
Except that Angela and Leon have an increasingly empty, loveless marriage, both of them carrying old family baggage and expectations.
And except that Christopher is gay. He tells his parents and experiences almost immediate rejection. He returns to his friends, the people he believes accept him for what he is. And his finds that acceptance is transient.
He turns to drugs, an integral part of the gay club culture he enmeshes himself in. And then he becomes a drug dealer, part of the drug sales and distribution system that apparently blankets the country.
Angela finds her way to faith. Never part of a church or religious tradition, she still manages to find her way, after coming close to suicide. She begins to spend an enormous amount of time on her knees. Praying. An unused shower stall in the Yuan home becomes her prayer room.
Christopher’s high-flying lasts for a time, and then he crashes, virtually overnight. Most of his friends abandon him. His parents don’t. Instead, despite of the gigantic mess he’s made of his life, his parents accept him and love him.
And just when you think the story has hit rock bottom, you find it hasn’t. It gets worse.
Out of a Far Country contains many stories, and many themes. Brokenness is everywhere. Even the “most lost” living the worst lives can be redeemed. Sin has consequences – in spite of redemption. Loving is more important that judging. Forgiveness is vital. God can do miraculous things with broken people.
All of those stories and themes belong to the rest of us as well. We may not deal drugs or live destructive, drug-fueled lifestyles, but we all know brokenness, the need for forgiveness, and the need for love.
The Yuan family is a living testimony for the rest of us.
Christopher Yuan’s web site.