If you were raised in church, you remember the parable of the prodigal son. The story is found in the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32. If you have never heard the story, the younger of two sons asked his father for his inheritance and squandered it by living recklessly without considering that his inheritance could run out. A famine came and he resorted to trying to figure things out on his own. He worked as a pig farmer and even the pigs’ food looked appetizing to him, because he was so hungry. No one helped him or gave him anything. He was brought to utter ruin and defeat, and realized that even his father’s servants had leftovers to eat. His desperation brought him to a place of repentance, and he decided to return home and express that he had sinned against his father and against God.
Do you remember the biggest sin you feel you committed against your parents or against God?
God doesn’t keep a measuring stick for levels of sin. That’s not always the case with parents, however. Did they forgive you? Did they hold what you did over your head? Did they respond in anger? Did it sever the parent-to-child bond? I pray it didn’t, but that’s not everyone’s experience.
We get no better example of how to respond as parents than the way God the Father responds to us. It is helpful to remember the lessons our parents taught us and the ways they disciplined us, but we also have to remember that although they are images of God and are placed in our lives as a guide, they are not always the perfect image of God. They too are flesh.
I never had a better understanding of why my parents did what they did until I became one. I never understood the overwhelming love of Christ until He made me a parent of my own children. My brother, Dylan and I messed up a lot. We still do. My children, Titus and Ivey, disobey a lot, and will continue to do so. In my prayer closet I pray their disobedience isn’t similar to mine, for many different reasons. God has their story written and I pray He allows my heart to remember the ways I was a prodigal child.
I don’t want to squander the inheritance
He has entrusted to me.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.
Psalm 127:3 NIV
The prodigal child’s father had to let him go. He had to allow him to make mistakes and choices that brought him to the place of brokenness that ultimately leads to repentance. I’m sure his heart longed for his son to never leave, and I’m sure it hurt him to see him in the condition in which he returned home. I imagine his beloved son was almost unrecognizable. I’m sure he was dirty, had lost weight, and appeared broken.
There are many times in my life where I have felt unrecognizable to my family, to my friends, and to myself. There is no doubt in my mind that the prodigal’s father knew exactly whom he was when he returned home, despite his child’s condition.
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (Luke 15:20-24 NLT)
The father’s display of affection to his prodigal child wasn’t in anger or condemnation. He was elated that his son returned home. He was grateful that he knew where to run for help. His father received him with open arms, and called everyone to celebrate with a feast in honor of his return. That’s what our Heavenly Father does when we turn to Him on the day of salvation, and all of Heaven celebrates with Him and every day after when we seek Him daily.
In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:7 NLT)
That’s what we need to do as parents. Before we react and before we respond. Ask your Heavenly Father for wisdom and for help recognizing we cannot parent without guidance from Him. We can’t handle the disobedience of our children in a loving and compassionate way apart from Him. I know I don’t want to give my children the wrong image of who God is through my witness.
As parents, our relationship with our children is the only tangible evidence of God’s unconditional love for His children. Our job is to point them to Jesus, love them unconditionally, and to celebrate when they decide to return to Him.
Were you a prodigal child?
What will you do to keep from being a prodigal parent?
We would love to hear your comments.
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