Yesterday, my second daughter celebrated her birthday. I say celebrated, but I really don’t know what she did. I didn’t hear from her. A first for us.
No matter how bad things have been in her life, she’s always contacted me around her birthday…usually to see if she can have money instead of a gift. This year? Nothing.
I don’t know how to process this.
She’s my prodigal daughter.
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15: 1-2
I believe Jesus chose his answers to this accusation specifically for the audience he spoke to that day but with an eye to our needs two thousand years later. Even though his answers demonstrated God’s joy over the salvation of any sinner, there are many lessons to learn from these parables.
The first parable is about the lost sheep. (Luke 15:3-7) People can relate to the loss of their livelihood. I imagine many of those gathered to hear him speak owned livestock. Jesus chose the sheep to make this story personal for them. Notice in this parable, the shepherd leaves the flock to find the lost one.
Next, he told the parable of the woman and the lost coin. (Luke 15:8-10) The amount lost, in today’s terms, sounds like a pittance, but the coin represented a full day’s wages. Again, he chose something people then, and today, can relate to. Who among us would not search high and low if we lost the equivalent of one day’s wages? Again, the parable tells us that the woman searched, with the help of others, for her lost coin.
But Jesus finished with the story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) He says a lot more about this one.
Why talk about a son who departs from the life he’s been given and chooses a sinful lifestyle? This strikes us to the core. We love our children. We teach them the right way to live. When they choose differently, we mourn.
As in all of these parables, the lost item is found. The prodigal does return, repentant of his behavior.
What’s different in the parable of the prodigal son?
The father does not seek out his son. He watches for his return, but he doesn’t go and search for him.
This gives me hope. My prodigal did return once and walked a clean path for a long time, but something drew her away. Will she come back? I have hope because Jesus told this parable. It tells me it’s ok to love her and let her do her own thing. It’s ok to celebrate when she turns her back on her poor choices. Most importantly, this parable teaches me that it’s up to her to make that decision. Is it wrong to try to bring her back? No. But sometimes, we need to get out of the way and let the Lord do His work.
That’s the hard part.
Once our children become adults, we can’t control their destinies. We must let them find their way and make mistakes. While they wander we pray for their return.
Until then, I will watch and wait.
Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/freedigitalphotos.net