For those who struggle with loving a prodigal (and I am one such person), Jesus offers much wisdom through the telling of ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son’ in Luke 15:11-24. In those difficult times of dealing with my prodigal, I find comfort, assurance, strength and wisdom in this parable. Consider verses 11 through 16:
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
Lessons to be learned regarding the departure and the lifestyle of the prodigal:
- The prodigal oftentimes leaves of their own account … and it is through no fault of their parents. They are drawn in by the beck and call of the world … rejecting the beliefs of their parents.
- The prodigal oftentimes leaves at a young age … when they are indeed ill-prepared to deal with the temptation and destructive forces of the world.
- While the parents are indeed responsible for preparing their children for the challenges of the world and embracing a belief IN God, sometimes they must let the prodigal learn these lessons the hard way.
- The prodigal embarks on a journey into the world confident in his or her ability to make it.
- But the prodigal typically has no sense of control or discipline regarding property – be it things or money – and will indeed squander it all through bad decisions and reckless living.
- And it is at this point that God begins to bring them to their senses … as they find themselves in need (WARNING: And this is a hard learned lesson, if as parents you come to their financial rescue at this point in the prodigal experience, all you are really doing is empowering them to repeat their mistakes until they once more arrive at need again … this can be an endless loop where as parents you are constantly preventing God from completing His work … and this is more a confession than a lesson.)
- At this point, they have not come completely to their senses … and they believe they can make it on their own and provide for themselves … but they are simply not prepared or disciplined for what good jobs and pay demand, and they continue to constantly find themselves in need.
- Finally, in the midst of this need, no one comes to their rescue and no one gives them anything … this is rock bottom … and unfortunately the prodigal must arrive here (and the more stubborn ones arrive here repeatedly) before they can once again become clay in the hands of the Divine Potter.
These are indeed difficult times for the prodigal … and for the parent. No parent wants to see their children struggle and suffer in such a manner. But we must learn to trust God and His higher ways in transforming the prodigal more than we trust our emotions and feelings … and this is a huge challenge for a loving parent.
Let’s continue on with verses 17 through 24:
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
More lessons …
- Oftentimes it is only when the prodigal finds himself or herself both in need and with no help or rescue in sight that they will then examine their hearts and confront their prideful and rebellious nature.
- While some come to repentance based on a gospel message they have heard, the repentance experience of the prodigal oftentimes only comes about through the experiences that delivered them to rock bottom and a one on one encounter with God Himself.
- It is only when the prodigal has truly experienced repentance and humility that he or she truly wants to come home and live in obedience to their parents,
- Despite the absence of the prodigal and what they are going through, a parent’s heart remains heavy for their children … is there another way to explain the father watching and seeing his son while he was still a long way off?
- Regardless of what they have done or whether they have a repentant heart, a parent looks on their prodigal with compassion and must keep on loving them … after all the father ran and embraced his son and kissed his son before his son had ever said a word.
- Through both repentance and a return home (not simply to a house … consider motives), a prodigal is truly reconciled and restored to his or her parents … and that indeed is a cause for celebration.
And while this post has been about the relationships and interactions between the prodigal and his or her parents, the greater message is that this is what our heavenly Father has gone through or is going through with each and every one of His children since time began.
I was once the prodigal … and I was an extremely slow learner (repetition has always been my best teacher) who did not come home to the Father with a repentant and humble heart until my mid-40’s. So despite the elapsed time with my prodigal, I know without a doubt that He is faithful …
As for me and my wife and our prodigal … we pray, we hope, we wait and remain firm in our commitment to God.
As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15 (ESV)