No father or mother wants the parenting challenges mentioned in Jesus' parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15).
The prodigal son was greedy and selfish. He demanded his inheritance early without any thought about the impact of his actions on the family. He left without looking back, and he didn't stay in touch while he was gone. He didn't adopt his dad's ethics or value the wealth gained by his father's hard work. Instead the son squandered everything given to him, both the money and the years of love and positive influence.
In my view, the prodigal son's father had every right to express hurt and anger when his son returned. But he didn't.
When the father saw his son—or maybe even earlier, the prodigal's dad made a wise choice. According to the parable, the dad chose to put aside the past. The father didn't bad mouth his son for his foolish actions. The dad didn't shame his son for the dishonor brought to the family's name and reputation in the community. Instead the father swallowed his disappointment, ran toward his son, and focused the spotlight on his son's need for reconciliation and forgiveness.
Too often we make everything about us. We see only our struggles, our disappointments, our pain. We concentrate so much attention on our own emotional needs that we ignore the emotional needs of others.
Earlier this year I spoke with a father who endured a long estrangement from his son. Though my friend didn't approve of his son's choices (the results of those silent years), my friend made the same choices as the prodigal son's dad. The choice to love unconditionally. The choice to seize an opportunity for relationship. The choice to let go of his own pain so he could embrace his son.
Like the prodigal son's father, we often face the possibility of hurt and disappointment in our relationships. When that happens, we can react like the world--venting our pain and betrayal, or we can react like God (and the father in Luke 15) by loving enough to give what the other person needs.
Our choice will determine whether our story ends with a parting or a party.
Wednesday – October 29, 2014