Today’s bible study is on the prodigal son. Not all of us will have a prodigal child return to the fold. The lessons in this parable are many but for today I will focus on one. Today the lesson in this study is not that the child returns. The lesson is that the parent embraces the experience of letting go and letting God.
There once was a child of rebellion who thought nothing of harming another human being. Though this child had great compassion for helpless creatures and people with disabilities it had no qualms about taking advantage of capable humans, people who could think and do for themselves. It was game on for anyone that appeared as a challenge or threat.
Unarmed and unprepared for the brutal attack which would come these naive acquaintances, family members and friends were used and abused all along the course of this child’s rebellion. None wanting to reject this child who is in obvious need of something which would not be filled.
The child spent much time in juvenile detention centers, graduating to county jail and eventually prison. On and on the destructive choices of this child now an adult hit close to home. Helping loved ones began dropping like flies as one by one they threw their hands up in disgust, dismay and sheer frustration over the choices of this prodigal and turned their backs.
Even the parent of the child after having thrown hard earned money and much time spent on retraining through Christian ministry, counseling, self help books, and many meetings with various support groups the parent gave in and let go. Humbled, accepting that nothing on earth would deliver their child from the path it chose the parent threw off the enabling suit and put on the Armor of God.
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17
Parents: we are not bound to our children for the remainder of their days. We have a responsibility to equip them while they are young with a spiritual foundation based on love, discipline, structure and education. When your child reaches the age of majority you are released from the provisional care of that child and they in turn are promoted to the provisional care of you.
Parents: we are no longer responsible for their choices, no longer do we run to save them from the consequences of those choices. Though we offer counsel it is no longer our responsibility to bail them out. If we do not allow them the humility of their poor choices they will not learn to assess their decisions and hold accountable their part when things backfire.
Parents: once you let go and leave them to their choices be confidant: they will come back to the structure you once provided. Those words of wisdom and the loving guidance you gave and the consequences of their poor choices as children will come back to them. They will see the wisdom of the structure you offered, if you will back off and leave them be. We cannot take the top of their head off and pour all our wisdom into their eager young minds. Wisdom comes from experience and some things must be experienced in order for one to learn.
For example, a toddler approaching the oven while the parent is baking, the parent scolds as the child reaches out to peer into the lighted oven, “No do not touch, it is hot!” Not knowing any better the child touches the oven door and recoils from the heat. Crying out in pain but not once touching the oven again.
For adults having experienced these things it is easy to pour out direction and counsel to the young but lets face it, not all children are submissive and easily re directed. Some children must find for themselves the answers and we must allow them to do so to some degree.
The blessing in disguise is that wisdom does come from our choices and some learn quickly unfortunately, there are the few who must stub their toe over and over again on the same obstacle before experience begets wisdom and the child learns to avoid the obstacle or finds a way to overcome it.
As with the story of the Prodigal son, with a contrite and humble heart and a willingness to turn from his self centered ways the son returns and rejoins his family.
Parents: When your child becomes an adult and continues to make poor choices it is NOT your responsibility to bail them out, pay their debts or provide a place to live. If you want to help your child then let them lean on their own capabilities, let them make choices whose consequences are their own. Let them be who they are and learn what they must. We do not live in fear: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
We cannot live in fear of the choices our child makes. For peace of mind we must trust that our child has been created for a particular purpose and stand in faith praying our child will come to that purpose in the right place and at the right time.
I have experience with a Prodigal child and I have learned many things. I can offer a meal even if that meal is served on the doorstep of my home, they will have food to eat. I will offer prayer and counsel them in the ways of the wise but I will not enable the Prodigal by paying off their transgressions, it is their transgressions NOT my own.
Be encouraged, some Prodigals do come home after sowing their wild oats, they do settle down, turn from their self fulfilling ways and become a productive member of society and it does not have to be at your expense.
“ 11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” Luke 15: 11-32
by Susan Louise Davis