Dear Mom of the Prodigal Child
Dear Mom of the Prodigal Child,
Before I got married and had kids of my own, I was the perfect parent.
It was going to be so easy. I would simply teach my kids to do right – and they would!
Parents who had wayward children had obviously messed up somewhere down the line. After all, the Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” If yours departed from the ways of Scripture, it was your fault.
When I had my own children, everything changed. It wasn’t a sudden change; just a gradual one.
Over time I began to find that the things I taught my kids didn’t always seem to stick. So I’d teach them again. And they still didn’t stick.
Then I realized that sometimes…sometimes it wasn’t that they weren’t understanding or remembering what I’d taught them. They were choosing to do what they wanted to do, even though they knew better.
Although the issues I deal with from a seven-year-old and a five-year-old are small in comparison to a grown child who is committing crimes, living an immoral lifestyle, or just living it up with no thoughts of God, it is still painful to me as a mother when I see a child who has been taught over and over to do right ignore instruction and willfully make the choice to serve self rather than God.
When I see a child who thinks only of himself with no consideration for how his actions affect others and with no regard for what God says about his actions, I shudder to think what that could mean when he is grown. Blatant self-indulgence now in the form of sneaking forbidden candy or soda could easily turn into all kinds of immorality and wickedness in later years. Shirked schoolwork and chores could turn my child into a good-for-nothing adult. Disregard for the property of others now could turn my child into a thief in later years.
And none of it would be because my child hasn’t been taught what is right. My children all have and will continue to be taught what is right – over and over and over.
But I can’t make them do right. They must still choose right on their own.
When one of my children makes a wrong choice, I often second-guess myself. “Did I not make it clear what was right in this situation? Did I not spend enough one-on-one time with this child? Did I focus too much on outward actions and not reach this child’s heart?”
While constant evaluation of my parenting skills will help me do the best job I possibly can, I must not blame every failure of my child on myself. In most cases, the failure occurred simply because my child chose to please self rather than please God.
Rather than scouring parenting books looking for new and better ideas, the best strategy for me to reach my child’s heart is to spend my time on my knees, begging God to do the work in my child’s heart that I cannot do.
Dear mama of the prodigal child: I’m sorry. Perhaps you spent the best years of your life teaching and training your child to do what is right and to serve God with his life. And now you find the child you love so much has ignored what he has been taught and is seeking to find satisfaction in serving himself.
Instead of joining you in prayer for your child, I’ve wondered what you did wrong in your parenting for your child to turn out this way.
Chances are, you’re already second-guessing yourself. You don’t need others to heap more of a burden onto your already stooped shoulders.
Perhaps you really didn’t do a good job teaching your children to do right. Maybe you didn’t know how. Maybe your spouse didn’t support what you were trying to do. Maybe you simply failed to do what you knew you should have done.
That doesn’t make it any less painful to see your child wasting his life and hurting himself, others, and God.
Dear mama of the prodigal child,
I know now that the only way to reach the heart of your child is on your knees. Instead of judging you, I’m joining you.