Recently, I was reminded of the story best known as “The Prodigal Son.” I’ve heard this story many times, most often identifying with the oldest son, and many times with the prodigal son. But I had never considered the perspective or lesson of the father. In the parable the father is God and the message speaks to his mercy, forgiveness, and grace for an undeserving son. The parable is found in Luke 15:11-32.
Honestly, I had started to look at this parable like a modern day judgey mom. Seriously, what kind of parenting fails led to these two? One child became a ungrateful degenerate and the other self-righteous and entitled.
But it’s not the failings of the children that reveal the nature of the father. In fact, it is their response to the father in the midst of their worst moments that reveal what the sons believe about the father’s character.
The younger son knows his father is one to treat even his lowest employees well. This son didn’t expect to be welcomed back as a son, but neither did he fear punishment. He ran to his father because he knew the kind of person his father was, merciful and compassionate. And his father was, abundantly more so than the son could have imagined, welcoming him not with disappointment but with great affection and generosity. The father restored the parent-child relationship, and celebrated his returned son.
My kids can act like the sons in the parable at times. The older is a bit self-righteous and the younger a bit more rebellious. I certainly hope my son never becomes like the prodigal in this story – spending all he has and hitting the bottom of society. But if he does, I hope I can be like the father in the story. I hope I can set aside my pride and hurt, tame my judgmental tongue, and run to my child whatever the mess and hug him, whatever the stink.
I want my relationship with my children to be an accurate reflection (as much as is possible) of the kind of parent-child relationship I have with my good Father. So I am working now to demonstrate to my son that I am the kind parent he can always return to, a parent who values relationship more than rules. I want both of my children to believe that they will always be received with warmth and that I will come out and meet them where they are – like the father did with each of the sons.
Being rooted in Christ Jesus, I can show my children this goodness and mercy, this unfailing love; just as it has been shown to me. We all, who remain in the Vine, can connect to a powerful flow of love and mercy beyond our own strength and ability.