>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.