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Prodigal Son or Prodigal Parent (Part 1)

I would like to preface this blog by saying, there are some truly prodigal stories out there that are a replica of the original prodigal story in the Bible (See Luke 15 ). In verse 13 of the story, it clearly conveys the prodigal’s desire for immorality, and in verse 17 we see the character of the Father as someone who is loving and kind.

For all the broken parents experiencing this right now, my heartfelt sympathies extend to you. My prayers for you are that you are blessed with a return, much like the father of the prodigal, and for your child to have a true encounter with Jesus Christ, much like the Prodigal had with his face in a trough of hard living.

Aside from the percentages of such tragedies that occur, my focus with Part 1 of this blog: Prodigal Son or Prodigal Parent, is to help people to understand the difference between the two.

I have found there to be a sudden influx of parents with strained relationships with their children in the world we live in today. While I always find this deeply sorrowful, what I find to be the deeper bereavement is the number of parents that have labeled their children prodigals when in fact they are not. It’s becoming much easier to label a child as a prodigal than it is to realize the parent may be.

Sometimes the strain of a family relationship doesn’t start with the son or daughter who walked away, it began with the parent and the role they played in the discord that made the child have no other choice but to leave or set a boundary. It’s far past time to realize that even as parents, our behavior and choices have consequences. Sometimes consequences that push our children away from home.

I want to focus on what makes a child a prodigal in part 1 of this blog. There are several things that stand out to me in the biblical story of the Prodigal, and I want to mull over a few of them for a minute:

The Prodigal son had an agenda and it only included himself.

The Prodigal's desire was to obtain his inheritance early and to go chase his worldly dreams. His focus was on himself and what he could get from his father and the world around him. So, I think it’s safe to say he had a spirit of SELFISHNESS.

The Prodigal had immoral intentions.

I am sure if we were speaking in modern day lingo, the Prodigal wanted to have some good old fashion worldly fun. He wanted to drink and party. He wanted to experience women and the world of lust. He was thinking with a temporal mind and not an eternal spirit. He was chasing instant gratification with no thought to the long-term impact it could have on his future. So, I think it’s safe to say he had a spirit of WASTEFULNESS.

The Prodigal was not focused on making peace.

The Prodigal in fact was living more as a menace to society, causing the environment to be stripped of peace. He left his home without a peaceful parting. He lived immorally robbing other people of knowing the peace of God he could have taught them via example. He even ripped his own peace from his mind and heart through riotous living. His actions placed his brother in a state of discord when he returned as well, and while his brother is responsible for his own emotions, I can't help but think if the strain of their relationship could have been saved had he never left. The Prodigal had a spirit of DISHARMONY.

The Greek word for prodigal is "Asotos" which means WASTEFUL. Another Greek word for prodigal is "Asotia" which means wasteful materialistically, as well as SPIRITUALLY. "Spatalao" is another Greek term for prodigal that means living extravagantly and RIOTOUSLY (causing an unsettlement of peace).

Sometimes, we can do everything right as a parent, and our children will still choose a sin-filled life. To label your child as a Prodigal he/she must be selfish, wasteful, and sew disharmony with their actions, behavior, and speech that go against the pursuit of peace.

Notice how the son approaches the father for his inheritance in verse 12. You can almost hear the pride and disrespect in the words written. His very demeanor with his father was one of entitlement and not one of respect.

If you have a child that follows suit in the prodigal category, then here are 10 suggestions to help you through this season of difficulty:

1. Pray and don’t stop praying.

God sometimes wants to see how serious you are about your desires through your own sacrifice in devoted prayer. Sometimes parents can fall into the pitfall of being the victim and forget to remember they are victors in Christ and our words have power. God didn’t call you to a life of victim mentality because of the choices your child made. He has called you to a life of prayerfully believing in the power Jesus holds to part those seas, keep them from the fire and rewrite your story to reflect a family redeemed.

2. Speak the truth in love.

This is sometimes hard, but necessary. Keeping your likeability over keeping your respect is a quick way to lose your influence in your child’s lives. Some things will be hard to say, and no doubt hard for them to hear, but keep in mind the most critical portion of all is that we are called to speak WITH LOVE. Yelling at them, calling them names, demeaning them, talking badly about them, shaming them...none of this will honor the prayers you are praying. In fact, it all but reverses them, and push your prodigal farther away.

3. Set healthy boundaries.

Sometimes, your child's negative choices can impact your life, job, siblings and even your peace. Actions have consequences, and the best way to help them learn this is by showing it in our own actions which include boundaries with our own children when their sin-filled behavior is damaging our lives.

4. Make sure they know you love them.

Tell them every time you see them and show them in your actions and words even more. Don’t assume they know, and remember your actions speak louder than your words. Our conversations need to start with love and end with love, always.

5. Limit putting them down to your friends and family.

Be very careful how you speak about them. While it is ok to ask for prayers from trusted and close friends, keep in mind that you want them to come back home. It is very hard to come back to an environment where they feel everyone is judging them or looking down on them because they know all their sins. The rule of thumb is, keep it shut unless it’s truly for support, and not for attention. Their absence is not a license to play the victim, but a powerful plea to pursue what brings peace, even if it requires you to be silent for a time period.

6. Don’t lose hope.

God is working even when you think He is not. Just because you don’t see the results you want to see, doesn’t mean your prodigal is not under conviction, thinking about the truths you spoke to them or remembering the way you said and showed them love, even when they didn’t deserve it.

7. Stay in the Bible.

Keep clinging to God’s promises to you. Also, be careful not to spend too much time researching verses to throw at them, but research verses that encourage you as a parent and your healing process so you can have wisdom on how to handle the situation.

8. Find a support system.

Find a Christian counselor or therapist that can help you through the pains of parenting a prodigal. Locate a local group (preferably one of faith) that helps parents navigate through this process. Study the subjects that have your children bound, especially if it is sins like addiction, homosexuality, pornography, immorality etc.

9. Keep working on you.

Life did not end when that child walked away. Despite the pain you are going through, God is asking you to keep growing, keep enduring and keeping seeking His will for your life, even when theirs seems lost. Remember, the prodigal’s father was working when he saw his son return. He wasn’t sitting there waiting. What you do in the waiting matters.

10. Make sure the prodigal is not you.

I know it’s hard to look in the mirror and not want to blame yourself for everything. Sometimes it's not you at all, but sometimes it very well could be. God didn’t ask us to be perfect parents, but he did ask us to be honest ones. Sometimes the truth is, our kids aren’t the prodigal child, we are the prodigal parent that drove them away by not only how we lived, but also how we treated them when we had them.

To read part 2 of this blog click here to help you ensure you aren’t the Prodigal Parent.

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