Parenting: Looking For the Prodigal Seeds

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It’s been a while since I blogged about my personal story. In some ways, I’ve been avoiding it because I’ve reached a point in the story where things began to fall apart for my younger daughter. I’ve blogged about her teen pregnancy, and I’ve posted several blogs about the prodigal, hoping to discover wisdom for myself as I share the current situation.

I haven’t talked about the years between the teen pregnancy and her current situation.  She’s almost 37 years old, so that pregnancy was some time ago.

So, what happened?

I can’t point to one thing. It’s a series of events and choices.

From the time she was three, she started doting on younger kids. She was great with them. You could see she adored children. I watched and realized that some day she would be a wonderful mother. But events changed that part of her. After she gave up her son for adoption, her interest in younger children evaporated. I’m not surprised by that, but I am saddened by it.

Instead, she focused on her studies, on activities with church and the school chorus and band, and on spending time with friends. I recall one Friday night, she and her friends showed up at our house shortly before her curfew, seeking shelter from a bad storm. I suggested the girls call their parents to let them know they were safe and at our home. Their response shocked me: they didn’t have a curfew, and their parents wouldn’t worry. Only one girl made a phone call.

What!?

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. Proverbs 22:15

My children always had a curfew. I expected them to let me know where they were and who they were with. These 16-year-old girls didn’t have any boundaries. As I dug deeper into the situation, I discovered that most of my daughters’ classmates did not have rules about where they were or when they came home.

At the time, my daughter expressed thanks that we cared enough to know she was safe. It wasn’t long before she pushed for the same freedoms her friends had, though.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3

As our children grow older, the choices made for them become a two-way street. We eventually lose control over what they are doing. The teen years is not the time to lose that control, but that’s what happened with her friends. Either the parents wanted to be “friends” with their children or chose to not fight with their kids in order to enforce rules.

I stuck to my rules, but that’s when things began to fall apart.

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What Makes Someone a Prodigal?

Image courtesy of Sommai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sommai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15:21

Not every wayward child qualifies as a prodigal.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

I’ve written about my daughter a few times in relation to the prodigal story. I love and pray for her, and as the father in this parable does, I watch for her to return. The difference between the parable and her situation is how the child returns. My daughter has come home or asked to come home a few times, but she never has come back stating the words expressed by the prodigal son in Luke 15:21. She still wants a handout. She still wants acceptance and a place in the fold as if she’s done nothing wrong. That is not a prodigal’s return.

Although the story of the prodigal son gives us hope when we have a wayward family member, there are some significant points we must remember.

  1. Jesus told this story to explain how God greets the repentant sinner. He rejoices when a sinner turns away from sin and acknowledges his mistakes, not expecting a return to the position he had before. The beauty of this repentance is that God does give him that position of honor. He does not become less in God’s eyes because of his mistakes.
  2. The son realizes his mistake and returns but not expecting to step right back into the life he had. When she turns from her sin, she should do so with the realization that she deserves nothing. God will give her everything; she will become His daughter, but she must understand that this is His grace to give, not her due.
  3. This story is about who needs salvation. It’s not about the children in our lives who wander away from our family’s fold, although they do need salvation in most cases. Can we still apply it in that way? Sure, but we must remember that the parable was a response to who Jesus ate and socialized with:

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

Why am I taking the time to explore this? Because my daughter has not qualified as the prodigal child. Yet. Her words and actions tell me she hasn’t accepted any responsibility for her life choices. She still wants me to bail her out. I can’t. I’ve actually tried that only to lose her again.

To be a prodigal, the person must accept his own responsibility in what drew him away. She must turn away from the life she’s fallen into. He must take the steps necessary to leave the poor life choices behind. She must show her heart in a way that tells us she is the prodigal come home.

Houses Divided at Christmas

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many people suffer from depression during the Christmas season. Some are experiencing their first Christmas after a loved one has died. Others worry about the family dynamic on Christmas day–Will Uncle Ralph pick a fight?  Will Cousin Sarah get drunk? For others, the limitations of getting everyone together can create stress and disappointment.

Anyone who’s divorced with children knows the heartache of Christmas. Where will the children be? How do we divide up the time? As the children grow up, marry, and start their own families, it becomes even harder. Which family will they spend Christmas with? Who will we have to leave out? Add to this married children of divorce who have married a child of divorce, and the problem is staggering.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three… Luke 12:51-52

Even though these verses don’t refer to this specific situation, this is another example of why divorce is not God’s plan. We are facing it, ourselves. After many years of Christmases with most of our family gathered together, we’ve hit an interesting crossroads. One child is saving her money to come home for a wedding in April, instead. The others are headed to various family members’ homes, just not ours. Aging parents can’t make the trip.

I know Christmas is not about who is where. It’s about the birth of Christ, and the world’s awareness of God’s gift of salvation. It’s a time of blessings.

But it’s also a time when families gather together.

So, we will be trying out new traditions this year. New ways of approaching the day. On the plus side, we won’t have to rush to get dressed and get the turkey in the oven before family arrives. We can take it slower. And we will see most everyone over the next week. We get a prolonged Christmas.

Someone you know is facing a Christmas alone or separated from loved ones. Reach out to them, share with them your lives, and, most importantly, share the story of Jesus and the hope he brings.