Prodigal Children

What is a prodigal child?  Its that one who just marches to his or her own drummer, who insists on always doing things their own way, even when they pay a painful price for it.  Its the one who marches up fools hill with much bravado because they just have to see for themselves whats up there.  To quote Will Rogers:  Some people can learn from the experiences of others and some just have to touch the electric fence for themselves.

The older I get the more it seems to me the majority of parents have a prodigal child…at least for awhile.  Is there any way to prevent it?  I think not.  It seems the more strict the parents are, the more the prodigal will rebel against their rules.  The more the parents let go of the child, the more the child acts out to get attention.  The more emotionally close the family, the more the prodigal rebels to establish independence and “cut the cord.”  Now I think I have included all kinds of parents, so I’m not sure there’s anything you can do to prevent the rebellion.  You just have to do the best you can to prevent a crackup while they’re still under your roof and you’re still legally responsible for the consequences.

The big break with the prodigal will probably catch you off guard.  If they have been defying your rules for some time they may suddenly announce they are moving in with somebody else.  It will probably be a living situation that concerns you.  Or they may pick a fight, storm off and come back later to pack up their stuff.  This more often occurs if you had once been very close.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from them much.  They are trying to establish their independence and reminders of their recent dependence on you make them uncomfortable.  They may even, for a time, break all contact.  While that will surely break your heart, give it time and don’t give up hope.

Don’t be surprised if they do things that seem to you to be foolish, irresponsible, utterly selfish, or even downright immoral or illegal.  Let them go–if they experience consequences, those are the best teacher of all.  You probably won’t see or hear much from them while they’re doing all their unwise things.  They know how you feel…you taught them well.  Your disapproval, though unspoken, makes them uncomfortable.

In the story Jesus told, the prodigal son was wasting his inheritance on alcohol and prostitutes.  It was foolish, selfish, immoral and illegal.  His rebellion covered all the defiant bases.  The father waited a long time, and there was no communication.  Some of us can identify with that.  That young man had to hit rock bottom.  Then he realized what he’d lost and he repented.  The father, who never gave up hope, welcomed him, and the relationship was restored.

The story Jesus told was ultimately a story about God.  Because all God’s children have been prodigals for a season, He knows how you feel.  Tell Him all about it, and ask Him to protect and care for your child.  You may not know where your child is, but He does.  You may not know whats going on, but He sees it all.  Ask Him to change your child’s heart.  He’s the only one who can do that, and ask him to keep your heart hopeful and loving and free from bitterness.  Only He can do that.  Then follow the example of the father in the story.  Keep watch faithfully, and lovingly until your older and wiser prodigal returns home.  If you have let the Father work in your heart, you’ll be able to extend a heartfelt welcome without bitterness or any desire to say “I told you so.”

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