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ImageOne of the most difficult things ever is not knowing.  Not knowing where our children are, or if they are safe; not knowing if our children are capable of getting through whatever difficulties they are facing.  Not knowing when, or if, we will ever be able to breathe or rest easy . . . At age two, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 . . . it is still a horrible and heart-wrenching thing to watch our children fall apart–to see them in pain, in sorrow or on a self-destructive path.

Mothers, especially, want to scoop them up and dust them off and keep them safe. We want to nurture, comfort and protect.  We want to save them from the mistakes, that we often have already made.  Our claws come out and we are ready to fight anything or anyone that that appears to be a threat.  We’ll go to all extremes . . .  Dad’s (good ones) want to toughen them up and teach them:  accountability, respect, decision-making, perseverance. Dad’s will use tough love.  They will toss them overboard to prove they can swim.  Dad’s will not chase after them even if it takes hours, days or years.  They will hand them a compass in the middle of the woods and tell them to find their own way.  Dad’s want their children to succeed.

Good parents always want to shield their children from the evil people and things of this world.  The devil roams the earth seeking whom he can devour.  As parents of prodigals, we grow weary but we never stop being parents who care. We muster up tough love but we keep on loving.  We want to right all the wrongs.  We want to make up for past mistakes.  We want to reclaim their innocence–but we can’t.  So we blame ourselves because we believe we failed them or failed to teach them effectively. And far too often, we say the wrong things, or we believe they lack what is needed to survive, to thrive and to overcome.

We wrestle with worry, anxiety, fear, stress, anger, sadness, helplessness and total desperation whenever our children (yes, even those who are adults) make poor choices, put themselves in danger, fall into addictions, become unhappy or unhealthy, run from responsibility, rebel, disrespect, refuse to grow up.  Still we want to hug them.  We want to shake them,  Sometimes we even want to slap them or hose them down with cold water.  We want to do anything to wake them up or to wake ourselves from the nightmare that somehow has invaded our family.

ImageIt is especially painful when our child prodigy becomes a prodigal.  A prodigy is a person, esp a child, of unusual or marvelous talents; anything that is a cause of wonder and amazement.  A prodigal is defined as one who spends lavishly or foolishly or one who returns after an absence.  This definition refers to anyone who wastes money but it also applies to one who wastes life, talent, health, happiness, their worth and their potential.

A prodigal son or daughter is a rebel gone to the extreme.  Reckless.  Wanton.  Self-indulgent.  When taken to extremes to be a prodigal can lead to narcissism; even hedonism.

Narcissism is a term that originated with Narcissus in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Currently it is used to describe a person characterized by egotismvanitypride, or selfishness; an erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own attributes. Meanwhile, hedonism is an obsession with pleasure.  Its the “I’ll try anything once; twice if I like it” kind of attitude.

We live in a society that puts high regard on both to be “me” focused and to seek after pleasure.  Envy, inconsiderate, manipulative, uncaring, impulsive, obsessive, compulsive, ego, pride, addictions, gluttony, jealousy, pornography, promiscuity . . . these are the the sins of the self-centered, the hedonistic and of narcissism.

These are the signs of the prodigal and these things can often manifest into mental illness, persistent health issues, disease, anxiety, depression.  They run from generation to generation and are passed down through family lines.  These things are deeply rooted in fear, abandonment, pain, suffering, abuse, neglect, unloving spirits, rejection . . . but there still is hope.

The past can never be undone but it can be overcome.

The Prodigal Son is one of the parables of Jesus (Luke 15:11-32 ) In this story, a father gives the younger of his two sons his inheritance before he dies. The younger son, after wasting his fortune goes hungry during a famine. He then repents and returns home, where the father holds a feast to celebrate his return. The older son refuses to participate, stating that in all the time the son has worked for the father, he did not even give him a goat to celebrate with his friends. His father reminds the older son that everything the father has is the older son’s, but that they should still celebrate the return of the younger son as he has come back to them.

So what can we glean from this parable?  First we must realize that hunger will drive our prodigal children home.  Just as the runaway teen or the drug addict returns to seek food, rest, reassurance after a binge or a “gone missing” episode the prodigal will eventually return to their spiritual roots when they thirst and hunger for a new start.

It may seem like your loved one has no “rock bottom” but the truth is they do.  Although it is possible, not all will have an instant ‘come to Jesus experience” and be totally delivered, set free, healed, restored, changed and transformed in an instant or overnight.  Just as it took a long journey for your prodigal to get to his or her breaking point, it generally is a long, painful and complicated journey back to wellness.

ImageAs parents of prodigals we must learn to trust God for the health, well-being, safety and for the salvation and transformation of our loved one.  Only God can save them.  It is a test of our own faith and our willingness to let go and let God.

From the Parable of the Prodigal we can draw a number of spiritual lessons for ourselves as well as for our children.  First, we can be a genuine son of the Father and still be “lost” through sin.   We can turn our backs on our heavenly Father and leave him of our own free will.  Mortal sin is a real possibility and mortal sin inevitably lands us in a far worse state than we were in originally.  Failure to trust God can be as sinful as running from God.  We can, however, return to the Father and be accepted by him with great joy.  In fact, he is ready and eager to accept us back and forgive us, no matter what we’ve done.

This is true for prodigals and for parents and loved ones who must overcome the need to control, who must put away shame; who must cast out fear; who must overcome feelings of helplessness, failure and frustration; who must reclaim their own health, wellness and highest potential.  Only when this happens can hope bring healing and happiness so those who love and yearn for the well-being of their prodigal sons and daughters can finally breathe and start living once again.

Its not just about them; its about us.