The Long Trail Home explores evangelical Christian themes using the Western genre. In this work, Stephen A. Bly, a prolific author of Christian fiction in several genres and inspirational works, presents Sam as a person of kindness and potential goodness who rejects his Christian upbringing and lives his life as an outlaw. Then through the power of grace, he regains his faith, direction in life, home, and Christian community. The transformation is described as an awakening, clearly presented as the grace of God. Grace provokes Sam to open himself to new possibilities and put his trust in the life that God has planned for him. Through Sam, Bly presents the results of recognizing grace, accepting God’s plan, and reconciling oneself with God and others.
While Sam is fully open to the grace acting in his life, he performs a good and kind act. He is repaid for this by developing an awareness that life can be different for him. An old girlfriend says she now believes that God has a plan for her. This observation and the mysterious and treasured gift to him from his father enable him to consider that God may be calling him as well.
Sam reinforces one good behavior with another, and he consciously refuses to act in the ways he once would have as a gunslinger and outlaw. He seeks out honest work, and he accepts the friendship and confidence of a good man, agreeing to fulfill his wishes if and when the opportunity presents itself. As he acts in these morally and socially responsible ways, he finds that he can pray as he once had. He longs to be reconciled with his father, a feeling that reflects a desire to be reconciled with his heavenly father as well.
Reconciliation with God and a determination to effect reconciliation with the parent and siblings he abandoned years earlier form the next steps in his transformation. With each action, the next step of a new life miraculously unfolds for him. When he returns to his family, he is received as was the prodigal son but with no resentful brothers. All members of his family welcome him. He is rewarded with the happiness of married love and a supportive community as well.