“There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.” And he divided his property between them.
Not many days later the younger gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country and there squandered his property in reckless living. And when he spent everything a severe famine arose in that country and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country who sent him to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself…..” (Luke 15:11b-17a)
The story of the Prodigal has many facets. Here is one that focuses on the boy and his circumstances. I think there are parallels in my life being told about…
I have children. They are now grown and fending for themselves. But there was a time where there were pressures to “not make them now or let them grow up too fast; they need to be [children or teenagers or college students—fill in the blank]; they don’t have to be serious right now…” or something of the same thought. Basically we are telling ourselves there is a time to be a child, a teenager, a young adult, and finally a real adult. Is that really true? (An aside: Do we excuse others from being a serious disciple because there is time for that later?)
I read about the younger boy in this family. “I am tired of all this, let me go have Fun! Travel. See the World! Get some experience in things now before I am too old to appreciate it or afford it or tied down with other responsibilities.”
I remember these sayings—said them myself.
What happened to the Prodigal? Blew all the dough. Lived high on the hog. Lived immorally. Experienced a whole bunch of illicit things. Found that he could buy worthless and so-called friends. Only lived for today, never planned for tomorrow, never remembered yesterday.
I can be just like that. Oh, it is never so blatant as to slap me in the face. It inches up on me, ever so slowly, so that when it bites me I had forgotten it was there because I got used to its presence. That is the way Sin operates—it hardly ever sticks out and say “Let’s Sin today!!” It oozes and creeps until it catches its prey—me.
But the scripture above says a remarkable thing: “When he came to himself…” Other translations may say “When he came to his senses…” I have to recognize that God uses calamity, affliction, hardship, and other things to prod us into coming to our senses. Sometimes not and how wonderful that is to find the Savior without hardship involved. That is not always the case with folks. There are times where a good, stiff, holy two by four across the noggin does wonders. The Prodigal experienced that.
We know the rest of the story: the boy repented, asked forgiveness, and humbled himself before his father. Dad forgave him, rejoiced over him and threw a party. The older son sulked, whined, became bitter, and complained like there was no tomorrow before his father hopefully set him straight.
My takeaways? 1) As a parent, maybe think twice before handing over an inheritance, or even a big gift like a credit card with a high limit. At least know and accept the possibilities of abuse by the child. 2) Afflictions are not bad although they can be painful. Let God have His complete work. Note: This takes faith, patience, and wisdom. Going limp on a child isn’t the point here. Godly parenting is involved work even if it is only watching silently. 3) Take the long view in hope. Trust in God. That trust may be in sweat and tears but trust. God is Sovereign over all creation and we cannot sovereignly control squat.
Father, acknowledging and trusting in Your Sovereignty is hard. I have been so trained to give in to my inclination of independence from You. Especially when it concerns folks that I love and am responsible for. Thank You for helping me tenaciously relax to the Long View and not be so concerned about the Right Now. You are Eternal and Omniscient. I can never be. You know my tomorrows, I can only hope in Your Mercy for tomorrow. Help me walk in Wisdom all my days. AMEN