A Lesson From A Perfect Father
The parable of the prodigal son is one of my favorite passages of scripture. I thought about it often during my interviews. The more I've thought about it, the more amazed I am by an aspect of the father I have never considered before.
Both sons broke customs of the time and treated their father with great dishonor. The younger son in a sense wished his father dead in his request to be given his share of the inheritance. The older son showed his true heart when he expressed resentment about working so hard and not being given opportunities to party with his friends. The father showed such amazing humility in approaching each of his sons, welcoming the youngest back with open arms and pleading with the oldest to repent and join in the celebrations.
We often focus on which son we relate to and are amazed that the father longed for a relationship with either son after being treated so poorly. In all my years of being a disciple, however, one thing has never crossed my mind and that is the father’s attitude toward himself.
I don't know about you, but I have spent too much time lamenting about mistakes over the years. A "mistake" is even what fueled my decision to commence on this project. The father in this parable, however, shows no such tendencies. That's something I almost can't wrap my brain around.
Think about it. The father represents God. The perfect father. A father who had two sons who chose lives that totally went against all that he had hoped for in their lives. They treated him with terrible disrespect. Their actions could have been extremely embarrassing. They chose lives that made them miserable and caused them pain, suffering and anguish (one physically and both spiritually) yet the father never once berates himself for being a poor father! He didn't question himself. He didn't get his friends together and list off all the mistakes he had made. There was no "should of, would of, could of" going on.There is no indication from the story that he looked at himself in the slightest. The focus was totally on meeting the needs of the sons and trying to stay in relationship with them.
Take a moment and let that sink in...
Lots of parents and adult kids expressed great satisfaction in their relationships. But I also heard stories of regret and disappointment as I interviewed parents about their relationship with their adult children. It seems to me that we waste precious time and emotional effort second guessing ourselves when adult children make life choices we disagree with. It doesn’t matter if those choices are spiritual in nature or job, lifestyle or relational decisions. If their life doesn’t fit with the picture we had while they were growing up, we may struggle with fear, anger, grief, or disappointment.
While we know that our children have a right to forge their own path through life, it is so hard as parents to watch them struggle or be in pain. Having children has been one of the sweetest joys of my life. Tom and I took loving them, teaching them, protecting them and training them very seriously! We are in good company - every parent I spoke with expressed those same sentiments. But this parenting thing is a very interesting dichotomy. First we're called to totally take care of them and then we have to get them ready to leave and be independent of us.
The thing I love about my new thoughts on this parable is this: if God experiences the disappointments and sadness of watching his children struggle, I can take comfort knowing that he understands everything I feel during those moments in my life. I want to imitate God in this way. I want to keep myself out of the way as much as possible and keep exploring new ways to build a closer relationship with my kids.
Seeing God in this new light brings me so much peace and more than a little confidence. I'm in good company. The creator of the universe is a father who has children that struggle in life, yet he is filled with hope, not angst. Not only that, I've come to the conclusion that as we watch our children struggle and learn and grow and sometimes suffer, we gain more and more insights into the heart of our loving heavenly father. Maybe that is one of the reasons he designed us to have our own offspring. We really are in this together and he really does gently lead those that have young.
I hope that you gain as much comfort as I have from this parable and I hope it gives you not only peace, but confidence as you continue on this journey.