To the Parent of a Prodigal

3 principles that will shape your perspective

Most of us are familiar with the story of ‘the prodigal son’ in Luke chapter 15.  However, for many parents, it can be a story that’s all too familiar in a more painful and personal way.

They relate to his story because it is one very similar to their own. They have a son or daughter who is “far from home”.

And while being a parent of a prodigal carries with it a weight that only such a parent can know, there are some key principles in this biblical story that can be a help and encouragement to any parent.

And we see these principles exemplified through the father in the story.  Here are a few of them:

  1. The father didn’t rescue the prodigal from his foolishness

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country.  Luke 15:12-13a

While our tendency is to want to save our children from any pain or heartache that we can see in their future, that is not always what is best.

Regardless of their age, don’t be too quick to rescue your kids. Sometimes there are lessons that can only be learned from “the school of hard knocks.”

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is:

  • Allow them to make mistakes
  • Allow them to learn from those mistakes
  • Because sometimes experience is the best teacher

I can remember as a boy hearing my dad say these words, “Experience is the best teacher, you just can’t always afford the tuition.”  Some lessons in life have to be learned the hard way because unfortunately, not all of us are willing to just simply learn from the mistakes of others.

  1. The father didn’t revert to fear when the prodigal went astray

But while he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion.  Luke 15:20

When one of your children goes astray, don’t fear.  We don’t see a father in this story who is daily wringing his hands in fear of what might happen to his son.  We instead see a father who with great anticipation daily awaits and prays with hope for his son’s return.

Sometimes parents are guilty of taking their prodigals’ actions personally, even blaming themselves for them going astray.  But may I remind you that even the disciples of Jesus who would soon “turn the world upside down” actually failed and abandoned Him in His darkest hour.  Yet they returned to be even stronger than before to fulfill and carry out his mission of changing the world.

Oftentimes, the thing we see as our greatest fear (our child going astray) actually has the potential to be a part of God’s greatest purpose for their life, enabling them to be used in greater ways in the future.

  1. The father didn’t refuse the prodigal when he returned

Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him… For this my son was dead, and is alive again.  Luke 15:22, 24

If you remember, there was a moment in time when the son “came to himself” and realized the error of his ways.  He remembered how good life was before, and the graciousness of his loving father that he had forsaken.  Yet he believed in the good heart of his father to accept him back, even if only as a servant.

Just as we need to allow our children to make mistakes and learn from them, we also need to allow them to make things right.  It is important for our kids to know that they are loved unconditionally and can always return and receive forgiveness – no matter what.

Because the greatest earthly relationship that holds the most potential to bring a prodigal back to where they need to be is actually you, their parent.  When the prodigal was at his lowest moment, who came to his mind?…  He remembered the unconditional love of his father, and it gave him reason to return to where he knew he should be.

If you have children still in the home, this is so vitally important that you establish a culture now where your home is a place of grace – a place of unconditional love where mistakes are allowed and forgiveness is granted. By doing so you pave the way for the future. 

The Father is a beautiful picture of God’s grace towards us, and a beautiful example of the kindness and grace we are to have towards our children.  A grace that says, “You can never get too low or go too far to outrun my love.  I love you unconditionally, and nothing will ever change that.”

So, to the parent of a prodigal:

  • Never stop praying
  • Never stop trusting
  • Never let fear have the final say
  • And always love them unconditionally with open arms

Be the parent to your prodigal that God has been to you – gracious, forgiving, loving, and kind. And trust God with the rest.

Luke 15:20, 24  And he arose, and came to his father.  But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him… For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

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