Luke 15:11-12, 20-21
11 “To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. 20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son’ 22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.”
In the story of the prodigal son we typically focus on the problems surrounding both brothers and often pay little attention to the problems that the Father faced. Yet while the younger brother was lost in pleasure and the older in pride it would have been easy for the Father to have become lost in His pain. When a child heads down the road of rebellion they are not the only ones in danger of becoming lost, this is where parents fall prey to become lost in guilt and grief. Third John 1:4 says “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” and the reverse could also be said, I have no greater sorrow than to see my children cast aside the Savior. How many parents have had to endure the pain of a rebellions child or the pain of a religious one that refuses relationship? Today we have bought into the belief that blessing is guaranteed for the godly. That if we do our part in parenting God will provide a problem free future. But we forget the clash between the Fathers will and free will. Sometimes our children exercise their wants to the point that they war with the Father more than they work with Him. As a parent doing what is right is not a guarantee against rebellion. Like the prodigal, Cain was raised in a family of faith yet he chose to run down the rebellious road that led to ruin. It is here that I need to stop and speak to the spectators of parent pain, because we need to be careful what and how we communicated to both the parent and the child. They don’t need another put down they need a prayer partner. So often the church casts a disapproving glance, meeting grief with guilt, when what is really needed is grace. Parents in pain need partners, yet so often our response to others rebellion is to swing to either side of the wrecking ball, we either choose the side of the bystander or they get a bible beat down. People don’t need left alone and they don’t need lynched they need love. In the story of the prodigal son we know it wasn’t the Fathers fault, yet He still stepped onto the path of parent pain and experienced the heartache of family failure. Unlike the prodigal’s parent most people know that they are not a perfect parent, they don’t need a lecture they need loved. So why do we spend our time pointing the finger, because it’s easier than prayer. Pointing the finger allows me to remain in the position of the Pharisee and pretend that I have it all together, pray cuts through the pretense and admits my need. Pointing lets me remain in a superior position, prayer reminds me I’m a servant. Pointing places me in a high position, prayer puts me in my place prostrated and pleading. Pointing lets me rely on my knowledge, prayer calls me to rest on my knees. Prayer calls us to remove our pride and return to the position of piety. Be careful if you are seeing spiritual success in your kids let it encourage and fill your heart not your head. It’s easy to get caught up in parent pride, where we pat ourselves on the back and think we are all that. Sure you might be following God and pursuing His plan for parenting but that doesn’t give you a right to recognize self. When we do we forget His hand that helped, we consume all the credit and close the door on Christ. When we gloat in His glory we are basking and bathing in His work for our own benefit. We are selfishly shutting out the Savior as we celebrate self, taking credit for what He created. Many who experience success when fishing brag and take credit for their skills because they caught the fish but do we ever give credit to the One who created it? When you experience success never forget whose pond of grace you were fishing in or you will suffer your success. When you understand God’s grace there is no room to gloat. We need to be careful we don’t become prideful parents who point to self and our success. It’s easy to become parent plagiarizers who pretend that we are responsible for writing the story of success. When we do our parent parade only adds to the pain of other parents and sets us up for a life of pretending, where we have to cover for our less than perfect family. What parents need today isn’t another holy pep talk it’s prayer that brings hope and healing. Instead of condemnation they need compassion. But compassion costs, it’s easy to throw in your 2 cents but what about your time? Failure doesn’t need a reminder it need reassurance that someone cares, it needs the familiar face of a friend. But so often we bundle our so called concerns in the blankets of blame, but blame doesn’t better it bitters. As a parent I don’t know the pain of a wayward children but I do know the power of prayer in the life of a rebellious one. I have not experienced the heart hurt over the runaway child but I have seen its reflection in the eyes of a pained parent. I was the prodigal son but now I’m a pastor, the product of a parent’s prayer. Parenting will never be pain proof but we don’t have to be consumed by the pain of our children’s choices. We don’t have to let pain gain the upper hand over prayer. Pain provides the perfect opportunity for a pity party but as long as I have prayer I have power over poor me. Sorrow wants to side track and get you stuck in the miserable mud of why me! But the Father didn’t let the pain of a runaway rebellious child rob Him. He didn’t let the sorrow from the wake of His wayward son swamp His ship. He focused on forgiveness not failure. He chose to believe instead of become bitter. Instead of holding onto resentment He held onto the royal robe that He believed He would one day use to cover and cloth His child. Grace doesn’t give up, it looks lovingly and longingly down the road of rebellion and believes in repentance. Sometimes we can become so lost in our pain that we lose sight of those who are lost without God’s love and peace. The Father didn’t get focused on the pain but looked past it, to the praise to come. If you are experiencing the blessing of godly children realize the gift and don’t take grace for granted. Be prepared to partner in prayer with that pained parent. If you’re living with the loss of a rebellious relationship keep praying and be prepared for the party?