Training Up a Prodigal Son

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You, as a parent, have an tremendous influence on how your children turn out. I've heard several psychologists suggest that children see God how they see their parents. Talk about a huge responsibility!

But at the same time, please do not take Proverbs 6:22 as a burden. When my pastor preaches from this passage, he reminds us that this is a guideline, not a promise. If our children go astray, we should not hold this passage over our heads. Proverbs are wise sayings and observations of how things are, not formulas. That's how you can have two rather contradictory proverbs next to each other.

But we like formulas, don't we? That's how get rich quick schemes and promises of perfect children get to us. We want to believe in a system. We want check boxes that guarantee results. We think that God must have come up with the one best way to do things... right?

I don't think so.

God seems to do things differently all the time. I know many "did it right" parents whose children still ended up walking away from how they'd been raised. I'm not going to mention any names, except one. It's this kid I know named Luke.

Don't get me wrong, overall, he's a pretty good guy. In fact, if you only saw him now and again, you may think, 'I hope my child grows up to be like him.' But if you hung out with him long enough, and got to be a close enough friend, you'd start to see hints of some pretty serious issues.

A couple of Luke's "pet sins" have been around for a long, long time. He's also developed a few more recently. At times he is one of the most selfish, vulgar, out-of-control, tyrannical monsters you've ever seen. How did this happen? What did his parents do wrong?

Plenty of things, I'm sure ...but nothing drastic. Luke's issues are not tied to his parent's shortcomings, they reflect his own. And God--as He does again and again throughout Scripture--is doing something unique with Luke. I don't know what. I'm not sure when He'll "get through" to this kid. But I haven't found a formula for fixing the foolish. We know we are called to pray. We know we are told to share Christ's love. We know we are to have an answer when asked about our hope.

At the same time, we, like the Prodigal Father, must wait for the child to come to his or her senses.

Walking Away

I read something earlier this week from a hurting mother who bemoaned the lack of support for parents with wayward children. I immediately resonated with her, knowing many "wanderers" myself. But could it be that there simply isn't a formula, a quick fix, a system? Isn't that why the Christian community has so little to offer in the way of support? We're people, after all, and we have a long history of walking our own paths that, only by the grace of God, lead us Home. Isn't that why the latter verses of Come Thous Fount resonate with us so much?

Do you know a wayward child? Have you found things that have been comforting/helpful to you as you wait for him or her to come to his/her senses? Are there any systems/formulas that have hooked you (for good or bad)?

As someone still too often stumbling down the path, yet looking toward the Father who is so lavish and liberal with His redemption, I welcome your insights and observations.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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