>The Elder Son

>I wanted to write an amazing article on parenting prodigals but then I googled and found that somebody already wrote it. Here’s a link to it from Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/julyweb-only/131-21.0.html if anyone is interested. It doesn’t actually sound like the woman’s daughter is much of a prodigal, but her thoughts at the beginning of the article about the autonomy of children and their unique, god-breathed individuality and the fact that children are human beings with their very own struggle and not our little pet projects are very good. But it was specifically her points about the Elder Son that really reached deep into me as I turn my thoughts away from my son and towards concern for my daughter.

Yesterday I spent some time with my daughter and her husband. This pair of “Elder Sons’ both have prodigals for siblings. My biggest fear for them is how easily I think it would be for them to slip into the dreadful sins of legalism and self-righteousness. These are two young people who do it right. If there’s a rule, they follow it. Both of them raised in the Church, saved at a young age, and both made clear decisions to follow Christ in early adolescence and have kept that commitment. They are also quite fun to be around and both share a servant’s heart and dedicate themselves to others. I’m very proud of them.

But as this prodigal reality sinks further and further in, I can see the effects this is having on my daughter and her husband. He’s angry. He sees his wife suffering. Her brother calls her and she tries and tries to reach him to no avail. He’s left with a sobbing, heart-broken wife and everything in him wants to protect her–put a stop to the pain–make it all go away. He’s a wise young man and I appreciate his counsel almost as much as I appreciate how dearly he cherishes my daughter, but he’s not a father and he acknowledges that he can’t understand the depths of the situation. There is no getting rid of this pain. We can try to contain it and we must for our own survival, but we cannot make this go away just by shutting our son out. Even though his very last thread to us–his cellphone–is about to be severed, we cannot cut the strings that attach him securely to our hearts. We will grieve until he returns and there is no getting around it.

I know her heart is broken, but what scares me is the times I see my daughter’s heart harden. It needs to gird itself, but I fear her heart will harden and never soften again towards her brother. Her brother is currently burning every bridge and he’s set the one between them afire too. They were always so close. That was one of my proudest parenting achievements to see that my children genuinely loved each other and cared for one another. But my son is throwing everything and everyone away including his sister.

Sadly, I personally know one case of a sister who never forgave her brother. Even when he returned and set his life right she didn’t forgive. It is over 20 years later and she has never forgiven him even though he has repented to her many times. What is very interesting is that while she did everything “right” her life has not ended up happy whereas her brother’s life has. Her resentment now, which I have heard actually uttered from her own lips, is that it isn’t fair that he screwed everything up and ended up happy while she did everything right and ended up divorced and unhappy. The prodigal’s brother is actually the saddest part of the story because we never get that there is any reconciliation between either the brothers or the brother and his father.

Our family has been pruned hard to the ground now. Each of us left with pain, loss, grief and a profound sense of isolation as we piece back together our own lives while we wait for our son to return to us.

Our task while we wait is to thrive and regrow anew. God prunes you hard because you needed it and because He loves you and wants you to bear some good fruit. Apparently, God and I had distinctly different ideas on exactly what kind of tree I was because I thought I was doing pretty well.

This quote from the above linked article took my very breath away:

“I have been in my scrupulous, self-assured way, praying for holiness. Now I have seen it and I have to be honest. I hesitate at holiness, terrified at the cost.”

Foolishly, I prayed for holiness and a new closeness to God and now I’m not just terrified but horrified at the cost.

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7 thoughts on “>The Elder Son

  1. >I had always heard about the prodigal son parable in the bible. But, it was not until someone else taught me that it should be more accurately called “The Forgiving Father” that it made much more sense to me.The focus has been wrongly placed on the sinner, according to this particular teacher, when the focus should be placed on the forgiving father.all too often we focus on the sin and not the savior from sin (another little diddy he used to share) and in our wrongly placed focus, we miss God’s forgiveness and love.I think you are accurate in your assessment of rule followers being tempted with legalistic self righteousness. I have most, if not all rule followers to be that way unfortunately.I used to be ashamed of my past. Though I wouldn’t say I’m proud of it, I now see how it has enabled me to have real compassion. real empathy. A real ability to see past people and their sin and see what God is able to do in their lives. Afterall, look what he did in mine.My rule following husband rarely is able to empathize. He sees things very black and white. “Well, all you have to do is………”If only it were that simple. My middle daughter has all but told me that God’s Word, the bible is ludicrous with all of it’s “stories” about God, the devil, etc. “It sounds so stupid mom”At first this used to be like a dagger in my heart. then I remembered all of the spitting I used to do in God’s face and all that he FORGOT when I finally turned to him, broken, battered and bruised. He and only He can heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free.He knows my daughters heart and that at 15 she is asking question. Very unlike a particular family that I know who’s children are total rule followers. At the end of the day, I wonder what they REALLY believe?How could they? They’ve only ACCEPTED without question what has been fed to them. How could they KNOW the truth in their own lives? They’ve never tested it. They’ve never asked the questions that you’re “not supposed to ask if you’re a good rule follower”I think it is the questions that we hid in our closets (our hearts) that we are afraid to ask, because we don’t want to be branded prodigal, or bad, or UN Christian are the questions we ALL should be asking.We live in such a glass darkly. If only we could always see with God’s eyes.Chloe, I am not walking in your shoes. I cannot feel your pain or completely understand your experience. But, can I at least tell you that from here? Your son does NOT seem like he’s on a road to hell.It seems to me that he has his own mind that he wants to make up. I bet God is doing somersaults.Woo HOO!! A real THINKER! FINALlY! Somebody who will TEST me and let me PROVE myself to him.

  2. >As a sister of a prodigal, here’s my take on it. Sisters of prodigals need a bit of a shell, in my opinion. I still totally love my prodigal brother, but I also have a firm dose of skepticism in regard to his words and his actions. It comes from having been hurt one too many times. Doesn’t mean I don’t love him. Just means: I have taken him at his word – that he is “happy” with the choices he is making and I am not hoping for a huge change anytime soon. God can certainly do that, and I hope He will, but I am not hanging out my Christmas stocking just in case, if you know what I mean. I love him. I pray for him. But, no, I’m not going to let him drag my heart all over creation worrying about his latest stupid decision.Maybe that makes me sound cold. But he’s a grown up man making choices.I think the Loving Father DID go out each day to watch for his son’s return. But I don’t think the Prodigal’s Sister necessarily has to do that.I recognize this may not be what you want to hear. Just putting my plug in for PSP. Yes we sisters of prodigals need to not be judgmental, that is true. But boundaries that enable us to deal better emotionally with what’s going on have to be there. It’s a fine line. (Just my opinion.)

  3. >Oh, Chloe, since I’m out of the SL loop I was unaware of all of this. I really admire your courage and forthrightness – it has to be so hard to watch. Please know that you are on my heart and in my prayers as you walk this path. Lifting you and Wolfie up right now and will add you to my daily list.Much love to you.

  4. >Great thoughts about the good child – the non prodigal. My middle daughter will have a birthday in a couple of weeks. She informed us that it was not to be like her *last* birthday when all we did was talk about Chris. Yikes. That squeaky wheel thing is hard on the quiet wheels. Still praying.

  5. As a sister of a prodigal, here's my take on it. Sisters of prodigals need a bit of a shell, in my opinion. I still totally love my prodigal brother, but I also have a firm dose of skepticism in regard to his words and his actions. It comes from having been hurt one too many times. Doesn't mean I don't love him. Just means: I have taken him at his word – that he is "happy" with the choices he is making and I am not hoping for a huge change anytime soon. God can certainly do that, and I hope He will, but I am not hanging out my Christmas stocking just in case, if you know what I mean. I love him. I pray for him. But, no, I'm not going to let him drag my heart all over creation worrying about his latest stupid decision.Maybe that makes me sound cold. But he's a grown up man making choices.I think the Loving Father DID go out each day to watch for his son's return. But I don't think the Prodigal's Sister necessarily has to do that.I recognize this may not be what you want to hear. Just putting my plug in for PSP. Yes we sisters of prodigals need to not be judgmental, that is true. But boundaries that enable us to deal better emotionally with what's going on have to be there. It's a fine line. (Just my opinion.)

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