Most of us are familiar with the story of the son who rejects everything he’s ever known to live what he thinks is the good life. He moves far away from home and spends his entire inheritance chasing his misguided dreams. Eventually his life choices have narrowed to sleeping with the pigs he feeds. When he finally comes home, destitute and broken, his father gives him a great big welcome like he’s a hero.
We’re all prodigals. God welcomes us back with open arms even though we’ve been living with the pigs and smell worse than pig poop. He hugs us and doesn’t hold his nose when we finally make our way back home.
This is sweet, and it’s the story of my life. But really?
What I want to see is the father slapping some sense into that boy’s head when he says, Dad, I want my inheritance now. The father already knows how it’s going to roll out. He may not know when, but if that boy survives, he’s going to come back home — after the world has toyed with him and had its fill, after the “good” life has sucked him up and vomited him out. The son will know what he had after it’s all gone. What a waste, I say. Hit that boy upside the head.
But the father just says, “Okay, son. Here you go.” On the outside the father returns to his own life. Inside he’s waiting. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t look down that road to see if today will be the day his son comes home.
I don’t know why God doesn’t stop us from squandering everything he’s gifted us with. Why doesn’t he drill some sense into our heads or blow up all our half cocked plans with a grenade? No, he just lets us go on our merry way with enough rope to hang ourselves.
I guess he knows when we’re not listening. We have to find out on our own, pig headed prodigals that we are. I don’t understand that kind of patience and self restraint, his being so right and all knowing, but not feeling the need to say, I told you so, you big idiot. We insist on shooting ourselves in the foot and he just let’s us do it. Be my guest, he says.
A good parent knows when he’s said enough, when it’s time to hand over the keys to the car. A good parent lets his son turn his back on home. He watches him walk far away from everything he’s ever known, not flinching, not yelling, “Just you wait!”
A good parent says goodbye, but he never stops waiting for his son to come home.
What’s your take on prodigal parenting? Have you been the parent or the prodigal?