When Kids Don't Go According to Plan
"A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living." Luke 15:11-13 (NASB)
It was true. He showed respect by asking for my permission. But after watching the movie previews, I had made up my mind. No child of mine was going to see that show. I had decided well before he asked the question. The answer was, "No." Without words, my son turned his back, returning to his friends.
I wrestled inside with that decision, because for all practical purposes, my son was an adult. Yet, knowing the intense heartache that could come if one unwise decision led to another, I was determined to maintain control with my eldest child as long as possible.
He could have lied and gone to the movie and told you something different, my head reasoned. Meanwhile my heart whispered, You still have time to influence his decisions; don't give up while he's still at home.
After seeking wise advice from my husband, we decided to allow our son to make up his own mind that day, but not without tears in our eyes. I know the decision seems rather trivial to lead to watery eyes. However, as I reflected on why we got so emotional, it wasn't that the choice was hard; it was the act of letting go.
I imagine the father in today's key passage wrestled with letting go, too. His son had given the speech ... the speech of a child who knows more than his dad: "Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me" (Luke 15:12).
Here is where I stand amazed at the father. In Jesus' story, the father didn't nag, criticize or get angry with his son. The father didn't say, "You're not ready. This is the wrong decision. You're too immature. You don't know what you're doing."
Instead, this wise and loving father prepared to watch his son learn hard truth ... on his own.
Reading this passage makes my heart break. I come to tears just thinking of the pain the father experienced as he divided his property and possessions. I can almost hear the struggle of this father's heart. Perhaps he thought: This is all wrong. It wasn't supposed to go this way. I've spent my whole life investing in these boys. This isn't the way it was supposed to turn out.
I've had similar painful thoughts.
What parent doesn't experience that frustration, as we travel through this journey of having children and then letting them go?
I think of the friend watching an unwise decision of another tear down a lifetime bond.
And the sister who struggles as a sibling heads in the wrong direction.
Each scenario makes my heart ache.
Maybe the father experienced the same type of emotions I'm sure I would have had: turmoil torturing my mind with all that could certainly go wrong.
Yet, in his wisdom, the prodigal's father held back that swirling sadness from his lips. He knew some children learn best through experience.
And we, as those who love them, need the wisdom of the Father to know which of our loved ones are wired this way.
Then with all the grace our Heavenly Father will give, we have to get out of the way.
Out of the way and onto our knees, praying our prodigals quickly discover even a "hired hand." Or they learn that, as Paul describes himself, "a prisoner" (Philemon 1:1) is more blessed than the one outside the umbrella of God's protection and blessings.
Lord, we are desperate for Your wisdom. Show us, Jesus, when to speak and when to be silent. When we need to get involved, and when we need to get out of the way, so our loved ones surrender to You as soon as possible. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (NIV)
Proverbs 4:5, "'Learn to be wise,' he said, 'and develop good judgment and common sense! I cannot overemphasize this point.'" (TLB)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What is the driving force behind the words you want to share with someone making a wrong decision? Fear? Love?
Ask Jesus to give you clarity and discernment on your interaction with your loved one. What words might you need to say or pray for them?