Hands down, the most difficult part of being a parent is: PARENTING.
When that precious bundle is placed in our arms we tend to romanticize what is to come: precious snuggles, first steps and words, first bike rides… then later on, dates, driving and graduation. All of those proud moments of parenting that make a mom and dad feel like they’ve done something right.
So what are Mom and Dad to do when those firsts look more like this: First tantrum in the grocery store. First of many visits to the principal’s office. The first call from the local sheriff at 3am.
Parenting is a mixed bag. There are so many incredible moments with our children. The good we want to take credit for, the bad we want to blame on someone else… like our spouses (can I get an “amen”?!).
More often than not those firsts are indeed incredible and worth every page in the baby book. Other times? Well, those ones we’d rather forget.
I want to encourage all you parents out there who, like me, wrestle with the latter. Moms and dads whose hearts ache a little more every time their kids choose the rebellious path, rejecting instruction and advice given, ignoring the directions laid out before them, instead choosing their own way… again and again.
Friend, can I ask you to do something with me? Will you consider choosing a new heart posture? One of trust instead of worry; a heart of gratitude instead of fear. Why? Because every rebellious choice our children make serves as a beautiful (albeit sometimes painful) reminder of just how deeply we are loved by God. Even more, as followers of Christ, we are equipped to love our kids in the same way.
Let me explain.
When God created Adam and Eve, He did so in love. His desire was to be in fellowship with His creation and He had very good plans for His children. But He also gave His children free will, so they would KNOWINGLY (not robotically) experience His love and love Him back.
In love, God gave them a few pretty simple instructions:
“the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die…”
Adam and Eve were given charge over ALL of Eden. They were in charge of the animals and plants and had a pretty cush life. Everything good was given to them. They were given ONE rule. Just one.
So what did they do?
THEY ATE THE BLASTED FRUIT!
Tempted by that snake Satan, they wanted MORE. They believed the lie that “God is withholding from us something good” so they chose to follow THEIR own way and eat the fruit.
Sounds like our kids, doesn’t it? They believe the lie of the enemy that their parents don’t want what is best for them and then take things into their own hands, turning away from the instruction given to them in love and care. Granted, sometimes those instructions don’t feel loving. Sometimes they feel mean or unfair, but the purpose of the instruction is to provide safety and peace. Doing the opposite? Most of the time it doesn’t end well.
I am not exempt from navigating heart-rebellion, both our children’s and our own (What, me? Rebellion? Ha!) It is one of the most painful, trying times I experience as a mother because it feels like no matter how hard I try or what I do, the kid(s) doesn’t recognize that our efforts to instruct, train, guide and advise are all done from the deepest place of love and in their best interest.
Have we done “parenting” right every time? NO. Definitely not. The list of “Mom and Dad Fails” is too long and we acknowledge that. But let me tell you, the depths of love we have for this one is like nothing I have ever known and WOULDN’T know if it weren’t for this child and their behavior.
There’s no way to describe it other than URGENT.
Having a prodigal kids has allowed me to experience urgent, desperate love; love that refuses to give up and clings to hope.
This desperate, urgent love I have is coupled with something else that makes NO sense. I love our child even though their actions and attitudes are rebellious, hurtful, inconsiderate, selfish and prideful and heart-pain inducing to their family.
Society tends to preach “an eye for an eye” and “they got what they deserved!”
WHO DESERVES LOVE WHEN THEY CAUSE PAIN?
None of us.
And yet, most parents of prodigals have this irrational love for their child.
I mean, who in their right mind keeps chasing after people who reject them? Who forgives over and over and over the person who breaks their heart again and again? Who loves someone SO deeply that after all of that rejection, they STILL offer a way to be in relationship with them, never turning their back on the one who causes the pain?
No one in their right mind would do that. That’s CRAZY… right?
God loves us like that. In His magnificent, awesome power, He loves US like that.
We are HIS prodigals.
Relentless pursuit. Never abandoning. Never quitting. ALWAYS waiting for us to choose what is right… Him.
It makes no sense.
But God IS love. It is who He is. It is what, in His perfect holiness and magnificence, He does.
The privilege we have of raising kids, specifically those that seem to delight in rejecting instruction, gives us opportunity to grow that kind of love and desperation in our hearts that cannot be described as anything but CRAZY, NONSENSICAL and IRRATIONAL, and recognize our need for it too.
The kind of love God offers us through Jesus.
What a gift; to LEARN to love without condition by loving the way we are loved by the King; undeservedly, unreservedly and unabashedly. and to choose to receive have the privilege of love and be loved by someone without condition; unrelated to whether they deserve it or not. To love them just because they ARE.
THAT, my friends, is true love. It is the gift of the prodigal.