The Father of the Prodigal Son

He Ran toHis Son

What I love about the Scripture of the Prodigal Son was that the father didn’t wait for his son to be “perfect” before giving him the inheritance that he asked for. There was no expectation that the son had to be in line to get anything. He was given his fair share.
 
The older brother didn’t think this was ok, since he had done all the “right things”. He was upset that the father was celebrating the sons return despite squandering the father’s wealth.
 
And finally, I love that the father didn’t withhold himself from his son.  The father didn’t wait for the son to humble himself, knocking on the door, apologizing, etc.   It says that he saw his son a “long way off”.   The father didn’t know why his son was heading into the town, he just knew that He needed to run TO his son.
When we read the story of the prodigal son, as parents, we read it from the perception that one day our wayward children will come back home and return to our authority/wisdom/guidance.  For our children who left the church, we read it with the hope that one day our children will return to the fold.
The problem with these interpretations is that they having us waiting for our children to come to us.  To humble themselves before us.  To admit they are wrong, to turn back the right way, etc.  We want to be told we were right.  We want our children to do what we say, how we say to do it, and when we say to do it.  We want obedience.  And, in some cases, it has more to do with our own pride (of how others will perceive us) than how our children may have strayed.
Scripture shows a father who didn’t withhold from his child (even when he was not making the right decisions)… and a father who didn’t wait to hear how right he was, but instead RAN TO his child in the distance.
Perhaps the real lesson is that instead of sitting in our houses waiting for our children to admit they were wrong and we were right… we are supposed to be running toward the opportunity to embrace them, to reconcile and celebrate.
Who was won to Christ by being shunned for their sin?  The Samaritan woman, is a great example.  Jesus went well out of His way to encounter this one woman.  She didn’t turn from her ways because the people of her community turned their back on her.  She turned from her sin because Jesus came TO HER.  Jesus showed love, kindness, compassion, and grace when others avoided her.
Who was won to Christ by being judged for their sin?  The woman caught in adultery.  While others stood with stones in hand to throw at her, Christ climbed into the pit with her.  When others were ready to destroy her, Christ gave her life.
Perhaps it’s time we stop shunning people and throwing stones of judgement at those who simply sin differently than we do.
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There Are Some Things You Simply Can’t Fix

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My husband and I were talking the other day, about friendships and just relationships in general.  Sometimes we mess up, we say things we shouldn’t have even though we were joking.  Or, we speak into a person’s life when we have no authority to do so…. or at least were not invited to share our opinions.  Sometimes the person is carrying emotional baggage and is extra sensitive & you were unintentionally careless with your words.

In situations like this, my husband and I can recognize we messed up.  We even try to fix it and make it better.   But, unless the other person is just as invested in the relationship… it’s going to be a one sided battle.  And no matter what you do, how many times you apologize, how many different ways to try to repair it… you can’t fix it alone.  It won’t matter if you saw it coming and tried to be proactive, or if the damage is done and you are trying to repair… you can’t force the other person to value the friendship like you did.  Repair and reconciliation must be something both people want and are willing to work toward.

And, if the other person doesn’t want it…. you have to be able to let it go and move on with your life.   You learn from it, grow from it, and become (hopefully) a better person from that experience.

Romans 12:18 – If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Only God can soften someone’s heart, once they have hardened it.  Only the Holy Spirit can move them and convict them into the path of reconciliation.  But through Jesus, we can pray for that person.  Because of Jesus, we can extend copious amounts of forgiveness and grace…. and ask for the same in return.  We can confess our wrongs to Jesus, and seek His forgiveness, even when others have become unforgiving.

And we can have hope that reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ will happen, it just may not happen on this earth.  But, we will be reconciled in Heaven as a body of believers.  And then, as we are celebrating together, whatever it is was that separated us will be like grains of sand at the bottom of the deepest ocean.

Gut Instinct = Discernment

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Going back, about four months ago, an interesting string of events happened.  Someone I hadn’t talked to, in quite some time, popped back on the radar.  It didn’t sit well with me, there was a lot of unresolved stuff in that relationship.  I didn’t think sweeping things under the carpet, or pretending like nothing happened was the right way to go.  But, in the end, I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.  I dropped my guard, a bit.

A few weeks later, it was painfully obvious to me that there was an agenda for this sudden revival.   I really didn’t want to think that to be true.  I really wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.  I even tried to convince myself that this was the enemy, whispering lies in my ear, trying to stop reconciliation from happening.  Scripture tells us that God wants his people to restore and reconcile with their brothers and sisters in Christ.  I convinced myself this was the case, and I wasn’t going to let the enemy win.  I dropped my guard, a bit more.

Several more weeks would pass of little quips of conversation, but I could still feel a nagging at my soul … this was not genuine.  I decided to put that thought to bed, I could deal with a little bit of skepticism.  I wanted our families to be reunited, I continued to drop my guard, and ultimately her family walked through my front door.  Awkward at first, but as time passed, it got more relaxed.  It wasn’t “like it used to be”, but it was familiar.  The evening ended, everyone survived, and seemed like it went well.

After some time passed, the truth of that evening started to reveal itself.  The younger kids were in the back of the house playing, the older kids just hanging out and talking.  My daughter left the room to get a drink.  When she was supposed to be out of earshot, their kids started talking about my daughter behind her back.  In her own room, in our own home… I was broken-hearted.  I had put my own feelings and skepticism aside, so they could rekindle their friendship.  I invited this pain into my daughter’s life.

To her face, her friend was beaming about how she wanted to go to college here in Florida & basking in some crazy notion about moving into our house for this time period…. plotting and planning out how the bedroom could be redecorated to fit them both.  But, the very moment my daughter left the room, the act was dropped… and the criticism began.  At that point, I flashed back to my original thoughts (which I had been trying so hard to dismiss).  We were being used.

And, the more I thought about it, and sorted through the catalog of the past… I realized how often that happened.  Now, I want to point out, that doesn’t mean there were not moments of reciprocity where we helped one another out.  I’m not trying to paint a picture of a person who is solely interested in using people until they have nothing left.  I don’t think that is the case.  I’m not even entirely sure I’d call my suspicions INTENTIONAL.

But, as I looked over some past instances, a pattern had been developing.  Not just between myself and my friend, but between our daughters.  Even more so, with them.

Sleepovers bad become less about them being together, and more about her getting freedoms she wouldn’t normally be allowed at home.  In fact, there was a sleepover planned & my daughter cancelled it when she found out there were ulterior motives behind it.  What was being sold to me as a “window shopping trip to the mall”, was actually a well thought out plan for her friend to meet up with some guy she met via a phone chat app.  When my daughter found out the real reason she wanted to go to the mall, thankfully, she knew better & cancelled the plans.  I was grateful my daughter had the wits about her, and didn’t enable her friends scheme.

Our “gut instincts” about something, are not usually wrong.

We know when we are in the wrong place, or about to do the wrong thing.

We get a vibe about a person that says:  this person is not safe, is not trustworthy.

Our spirit isn’t settled, we don’t have peace… and we can’t ignore that.

God gives us the gift of discernment to protect ourselves.  I should have known from the beginning this was discernment from God.  I should have listened to that unsettled spirit, and kept the boundaries up.  I could have protected my daughter’s heart from being wounded by someone who has been so important in her life, for so long.  I was trying to talk myself out of doubt, when good reason was sitting right in front of me.

When my friend wasn’t willing to reconcile, which is what God calls us to, I should have known.  Reconciliation and restoration doesn’t come from just “moving on”.  It comes when we are willing to face each other, honestly, and admit to where we messed up.  When we take accountability for our actions.  When we seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness.  It comes in that moment, when we look at another person and say “our relationship is too important for this to go on like this”.  It comes when we own that we are sinning before God by holding anger and resentment in our hearts towards someone in our family of believers.  Sure, it may have boundaries; reconciliation may take time and healing… but it starts out of a spirit of LOVE for the other person & GRIEF over the death of the relationship.

I have repeatedly told my children that truth always reveals itself.  It can’t stay hidden.  Sometimes, it just takes longer for it to show itself.  The sad thing, for me, is that is seems the longer it takes for the truth to reveal itself… the more it hurts.  Especially, when you invited the pain back in.  You opened the door, and let it walk right inside.  And, in doing so, not only exposed your heart to it… but you exposed your family to it as well.

Had I heeded those initial warnings, I could have saved my daughter from learning the truth about her “friend”.  They would have moved, and her memories of that friendship would be GOOD.  Now, it’s broken.

God gives us discernment, but we have to have wisdom to recognize it and understand it.  We also have to be courageous enough to act upon that wisdom.  In my personal situation, I never prayed over it.  I never went to God, seeking His guidance.  I never went to my mentor, to seek godly counsel.  I allowed my fleshly desires (for myself, or family) to let me think I could figure this out on my own.

If you find yourself in a space, like me, where you are wondering if this is discernment or just the enemy attempting to undermine…. PRAY!  SEEK GOD, SEEK COUNSEL.