Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

When the Prodigal Son (or Daughter) Is Yours

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Where are they? And what are they doing? Sometimes, it’s hard to know whether we want those answers, or not. Highland Road, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Light in the Box.

The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11 – 31) is a familiar one to many — sometimes because we’ve been the person who has broken our parent’s heart ourselves, other times because we are that hurting parent.

The principle message of the story is that, from the perspective of God our Father, ALL of us are prodigal sons, running away from His love and goodness, grace and mercy. Some of us, realizing that we no longer want to feed pigs anymore, decide to come back to our Father’s house.  And like the man in the story who watches constantly for his son’s return, God enfolds us in His arms and love, announcing to all that His child “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15: 31)

When the Prodigal Is Yours

Some people live this parable in real time, and it lasts a lot longer than nine paragraphs in the Bible. If this is your story, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) “Where did we go wrong?” That’s the first question we ask ourselves, and while it’s a valid one, it’s also one to answer promptly, honestly, and competently, and not to spend time wallowing in.

Of course you made mistakes — all humans do. Ask God to guide you in being aware of those mistakes, correct whatever is necessary, and move on. Prodigals happen in the best of families as well as in the worst, and you can find some measure of comfort in recognizing that the first Prodigal Son and Daughter were Adam and Eve.

Where Is Everybody?

2) You find out who your friends are. When times get tough, some people draw closer to us, and others run away. This isn’t surprising, but what generally floors us is that often, the people we thought we could count on, we can’t, and those we barely knew existed, are right there by our side.

The one who never leaves us is God Himself, who says, in various ways throughout the Bible, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13: 5, based upon Deuteronomy 31: 6)

Don’t Be Hasty

3) This probably didn’t happen overnight. While the actual crisis may seem sudden and unexpected, most situations take time to develop. Proverbs 14: 17 tells us,

“A quick-tempered man does foolish things,” and 19: 2 warns, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.”

Don’t be pushed to make fast, rash decisions with potentially irrevocable ramifications.

Growth, healing, life — these all take time. Purple Iris, original watercolor by Steve Henderson, sold.

4) There are other people, who need you, in your life. If there are additional children, especially still in the home, don’t force them to live their lives constantly in the shadow of their sibling’s actions. Yes, you are brokenhearted, but your youngest child’s birthday is coming up, and she deserves a celebration.

The prodigal son of Jesus’ story physically left, and while his father never stopped looking for his return, he also didn’t stop living his own life. He had a farm to run, and at least one other child.

It’s a toss-up whether it’s easier to have the prodigal out of sight and far away, or near enough that you are constantly updated as to the latest scrape, but either way, there’s not much you can do for someone who isn’t listening and doesn’t want to change direction right now. You major activity is to pray.

Forgiveness Isn’t Easy

5) This is a great opportunity to learn, firsthand, what forgiveness means. There will be people who encourage you to deal harshly with the prodigal, summarily rejecting him or her because they are “sinful and rebellious,” and your duty as a Christian demands that you show tough love.

Tough love is tough not because it’s grim and rigid, but because it’s painfully difficult. (It’s also a pop psychology phrase that you don’t find in the Bible.)

Luke 17: 3 tells us, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times, comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

By all means, lock your house, put away money and charge cards, protect yourself from your prodigal when they are in an untrustworthy state, but always remember — this is your child. Ultimately, you don’t want to sever them from the possibility of ever having a relationship with you, when they come back to their senses.

Things Take Time

6) Healing — on your part and the prodigal’s — takes time. A wise woman, who endured many painful years loving a child determined to make excruciating decisions, told me,

“Proverbs 22: 6 tells us that when we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it.

“Did you see the part about, ‘when he is old’? It may take awhile.”

It’s not easy being the parent of a prodigal — don’t let anyone, ever, prevail you into thinking that it is. Lean on God, not your own understanding (Proverbs 3: 5); don’t give up (Galatians 6: 9); and remember that love — God’s love — never fails.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. When I read the Bible, sometimes I stop before I open the book and remind myself,

“The stuff in here is actually true.” It’s amazing what kind of perspective that gives you.

Posts similar to this one are

What’s So Bad about a Comfort Zone?

When You Can’t Take It Anymore

Don’t Worry — It’s NOT All up to You

Your Learning Curve — as a Christian


Previous Posts

Are House Cats Smarter Than Humans?
It's time to bring to a close the age-old debate about whether dogs or cats -- and the people who prefer one to the other -- are smarter. Not because the general populace has accepted the final resolution of the issue (easy -- cats, paws down), but because we have a more pressing question: [c

posted 11:06:08pm Dec. 19, 2014 | read full post »

Mass Manipulation by the Mass Media
Nowadays, dystopia is the rage. Books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner seem written for the sole purpose of being turned into movies, with a concerted effort to engage today's youth into the idea that life, and the future, are hopeless. [caption id="attachment_1363" align=

posted 10:20:03pm Dec. 17, 2014 | read full post »

God -- Coming Out of the Closet
Some unknown,  unnamed, presumably existent person, long ago, said that we should never talk about sex, religion, and politics. Aside from this eliminating pretty much everything interesting worth discussing -- including the weather since, with the growing mantra of "Global Change," the weather is

posted 9:29:39pm Dec. 15, 2014 | read full post »

The Inadequacy of Corporate Prayer
Although it's been years since I've been in a regular church situation, I can still conjure up the feelings of dread I felt at "prayer time," sitting around a circle (we're told it's "intimate") and sharing details about our lives. The worst part was when we all bowed our heads and prayed for on

posted 9:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2014 | read full post »

Forgiveness Is a Promise, Not a Contractual Agreement
Too many Christians spend too much time trying to placate a God who will not be satisfied with anything they do, simply because He dislikes them so much. [caption id="attachment_1344" align="alignleft" width="375"] White as snow, or a perfect rose -- our sins are miraculously changed from the sta

posted 6:32:12pm Dec. 10, 2014 | read full post »

Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.