When your child is prodigal

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. And you must commit yourself wholeheartedly to these commandments that I am giving you today. Repeat them over and over again to your children. Talk about it when you’re home and when you’re on the road, when you go to bed and when you get up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as a reminder. Write them on the posts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 4:6-9

When your children were young, did you talk about the scriptures? Did you take them to church? Have you read the Bible stories to your children? Have you integrated God into your conversations? Have you modeled a relationship with Christ?

Maybe you did. I hope you did. I know I did. My kids would often tell the kids in the neighborhood to be prepared for me to “become biblical” for them. I have been accused of turning everything – every book, every movie, every situation – into a Bible lesson. I certainly feel like there could have been worse charges.

Maybe you weren’t in the same place I was spiritually. Perhaps you strayed from the truth and the scripture was not near your lips. Perhaps you had not yet had a relationship with the Father and therefore could not share what you did not have.

Here’s the thing: wWhether you were the parent who became biblical for your children or you were the parent who did not know God, it is very possible that you are raising (or raising) a prodigal son.

Encouraging, huh?

Unfortunately it’s true. We can do everything right and deal with the pain of seeing our children stray from their solid foundations. So what do we do while waiting for our children to return?

Keep on loving. Sometimes it’s hard to love someone when they get so rebellious. At least sometimes it’s hard to show that love. But it is love that softens even the hardest heart. That doesn’t mean you don’t set boundaries, but I’m a firm believer in the power of love.

When my children were younger, it was often difficult to bear all the burden of raising children, but I have always said that what kept me going was the promise that one day my children would look back and know who would have sacrificed everything for them. They would know who loved them on tough days, who was always there when they needed someone. Today, I begin to see and hear this reality shine through as my children spread their wings and become their own people. They know there’s always a sweet place to land, and nothing they say or do will ever end my love for them.

It is a security that everyone needs in their life.

Keep watching. Last year we went to see Jesus at the Sight and Sound Theaters in Branson. During the show we saw the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15). Every day, the father went out, looked away, scanned the horizon to see if his son was coming home. I’m sure that’s why the father saw his son when he was still far away.

If you watch carefully, you will see evidence that the Father is working in their lives. You will hear the foundations you have laid as they speak. You will see glimpses of the child you have raised all these years. If you keep looking, you will see the hand of God as He lovingly draws them back to Him and to you.

Keep praying. I think of the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18. The unjust judge finally yielded simply because of his persistence. The passage ends with this sentence: SDon’t you think that God will surely bring justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he continue to eliminate them? I tell you, he will bring them justice quickly!

I saw the importance of praying for those we love. Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered the way we want them to be answered, the way we think they should be answered. But I’ve seen prayers answered in ways I never thought possible – and God’s way is always best!

Keep trusting. I know that it is sometimes difficult to continue to trust, to cling to our faith. But can I ask you to come back to your life? Can you remember a time when God came? Can you remember how he kept you safe, how he took care of you in a remarkable way? Can you see his faithfulness?

Keep those memories. Just as the Israelites always left memorial stones, keep those memories of God’s work in your life at the forefront of your mind. If you remember his faithfulness, it will be easier for you to trust him.

Can I share a little secret? I know it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see your children wandering away from their foundation. But what if this period of rebellion actually strengthened their faith? What if it was an opportunity to solidify their convictions? What if your kids were to emerge stronger than you ever imagined?

What if this period of flight from faith was an opportunity for God to leave the 99 sheep and chase after just one – an opportunity for Him to demonstrate how much He loves your prodigal son?

I always said that I hoped my children would go through a period of questioning their faith, of sowing their wild oats. I would much rather see them questioning what they believe and why they believe it when they are young than when they are older, married and have so much at stake. I have often wondered what would have happened if my ex-husband had questioned his faith when he was 20 rather than 40.

I know it’s hard – incredibly hard – to watch your children make their own choices, live their own lives (especially if their choices lead them away from the faith). But I encourage you to hang on. See the positive side that when they go through this period, their faith may be stronger than you imagined. Be the father of Luke 15, waiting, watching, hoping for the return of his child.

And when your child comes home, rejoice! Organize a party! Let the world know your child is home!

And rest in the promise that the Heavenly Father always has your child firmly in his hands, relentlessly pursuing, loving unconditionally, orchestrating events to bring your child home.


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