I have had family members who, like the son in the Luke 15 parable, left home and drifted far from the morals, values and Christian principles with which they were raised – causing concern and grief for parents, grandparents and others who loved them.
Causing even more pain and anguish, my husband and I were castigated by people in the church for not parenting our own sons properly (as though their straying as young adults was due to our not having been more strict or godly). As a result, we tried some of their council – “tough love” and interventions to call them back to the “right way.” But…those didn’t work, and only brought more alienation and separation.
Then, I read Ruth Bell Graham’s book, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait, and discovered I wasn’t alone. Billy Graham and Ruth Bell Graham had two of their five children who were “spiritual wanderers.” That fresh awareness helped me shrug off all those negative comments about our inadequate parenting and receive comfort and encouragement. We were not alone. But, I still struggled with how to love our wayward sons without constant worry, fear, anger or recriminations.
It wasn’t until I fully understood the parable of the “lost son” and began to focus on the extravagant love of the father in the story, and how much more God loves my sons than I ever could even with a mother’s large capacity, my perspective shifted.
I remember a profound experience of pouring my heart out to God alone in my room and during that time, envisioning myself walking with my son into God’s heavenly throne room. As we approached God, I was aware of overwhelming compassion and love. All the while we approached, my son yanked and pulled to get away. Placing my fighting son into God’s arms, I backed away. In the moment, I saw that, although my son fought with all his might to escape God’s loving embrace, God’s silent comfort to me was that he would not let my son go, no matter what. It was then I was able to truly both let go of my son and any outcomes, trusting the lavish love of God to care for him.
That special “vision” taught me I could love and offer grace even though disappointed, frustrated and hurt. I have loved several other prodigals through the years, and with each, God has expanded my capacity to give grace. And that love and grace so freely given to me by God is what he offers us all. – Judi Brandow, Communications Specialist