Let's Embrace This Lesson From A Good Dad
"I'd like my inheritance now, please. I'm leaving."
Definitely not the words any parent hopes to hear from their child.
I'm thankful the Bible is so real. If you haven't read this story in awhile, please take time and look at it in Luke 15. It depicts a vulnerable family drama. Disturbing, sad, happy - a huge mix of emotions boiled down to a few paragraphs.
Can you imagine the tension leading up to the younger son asking for his share of the estate? How would you respond if you were the father? I don't think I would have been very gracious. Honestly, I probably would have shouted and ordered him to leave. In modern terms, I picture the young guy peeling off in his sports car, throwing gravel as he sped off on his new adventure.
I imagine the older son standing off to the side, watching his father hand over the money, shaking his head at the weakness he was witnessing in his father. I imagine a look of disgust and disdain clouding his features as he turns away and heads back to the barn to do his chores...
When you read this parable, what do you notice or think about? I have usually focused on which son I relate to. I have always been amazed that the father was so measured and loving and kind - that he never gave up hope. Until recently, however, one thing I had never considered is the father’s attitude toward himself.
The father represents God. The perfect father. A father who had two sons who went against everything he had hoped for, at least for a time. They treated him with terrible disrespect. Their actions could have been incredibly embarrassing.
Both sons broke customs of the time and treated their father with great dishonor. The younger son in a sense wished his father dead with his request for 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 incredible 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.
Their choices made them miserable and caused them pain, suffering, and anguish (one physically and both spiritually). They both said mean and hurtful things. Yet the father didn't pull away in anger. He never stopped hoping for the return of his younger son. He appealed to the older son, trying to help him gain a deeper understanding.
I want to be like that.
But have you thought about what he
Unlike me, the father never once berated himself for being a poor father!
He didn't question himself.
He didn't pull his friends together and list off all the mistakes he had made.
There was no "should of, would of, could of" party going on.
He also didn't moan or complain about the way he was being treated.
There is no indication from the story that he looked at himself in the slightest. His focus was totally on meeting the needs of his sons and wanting to stay in a relationship with them, even if it meant watching one of them walk away for a time.
I want to be like that dad. I want to love my kids and keep the focus on what they need. When I focus on myself, I don't have the emotional reserve required to give my children what they need.
I've spent the past several years interviewing parents of adult children and have also talked to many adult children, trying to learn how to navigate the new stage of life I'm in. During my interviews, many parents and adult kids expressed great satisfaction in their relationships. But I also heard stories of regret and disappointment.
What family doesn't have times of struggle? My family has had difficulties times. How much time and energy have I wasted over the years
second guessing myself? Why have I taken so many things personally over the years? Why can't I imitate the maturity and patience this father exhibits during times of deep trials?
The drama that unfolds in this parable is something many families won't experience, at least not to the extent Luke describes. Some of us may. No matter what our situation, I think we can imagine the emotions the father might have experienced.
While we know that our children have a right to forge their own path through life, it is hard, sometimes, to not jump in and demand their attention. It can also be challenging to reconcile the reality of their life choices with our hopes or dreams for them.
This parenting thing is an interesting dichotomy. First, we're charged to take complete care of them. Just when we finally get the hang of what that means, it's time to get them ready to leave us and become independent.
God gets it.
He understands the emotional roller coaster parents ride, watching the highs and lows of our children's lives. I can take comfort knowing that he knows everything I feel during similar moments in my life.
I want to imitate the new lessons I'm learning from God in this parable. 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. I want to keep my arms and heart wide open, ready to embrace them again after times of distance or separation. I don't want to be an "I told you so" parent. I'd rather celebrate the victories than lament over the struggles.
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.
With this changed perspective, as I watch our children struggle, learn, grow, enjoy victories, and sometimes suffer, I gain more and more insights into the heart of my loving heavenly father. Maybe that's one of the reasons he designed us to have our own offspring.
Isn't that an interesting thought?
I crave having close friends who understand and relate to me.
Does God desire that same connection with me?
I hope that you gather as much comfort as I have from this parable and I hope it gives you not only peace but confidence as you continue on your journey.
This is the fourth of a five-part series on re-thinking our definition of a good parent.
If you just stopped by and haven't read the first three, you can find them here:
I would love to hear from you. You can leave comments below, and you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org