Tears stream down my face hot and fast. I really thought I’d be fine. Walking into church moments earlier with dry eyes and a strong countenance—the melody began. Songs of praise open the arms of my greatest Comforter. In seconds, He wraps me in a loving embrace and squeezes out a bucket of tears.
How do you explain the love a mother has for her child? It’s like explaining the color blue to a blind man. “Joanne, do you want to go?” Paul leans down and whispers. He knows me well. I’ll never make it through service without battling waves of soft hiccuping sobs—the sound of a mother’s heart being shredded.
The little boy who collected bugs in jars and curled up in my lap for hugs became a teenager magically overnight. The growing pains of poor choices were something I never expected. “Now that I finally have some wisdom to impart—no one wants to listen.” My father likes to tease—true and painful words that mirror my thoughts about my rebellious child. If wisdom were water, I’d drown him in it.
There’s a story tucked away in the gospel of Luke that many parents are walking out in living color. Jesus shares the parable of a man who has two sons. The younger son asks his father for his portion of the family estate as an early inheritance. Remember, an inheritance is not received until a parent dies. This son basically told his father to drop dead. Still, his father gives him what he asks for and the son takes off to another land and proceeds to squander his inheritance.
When the money is gone, a famine hits the land and the son is destitute. He gets a job feeding pigs. His lowest point comes when he realizes the pigs he’s cleaning up after are eating better than he is. Broken, he remembers his loving father. He realizes his foolish choices and decides to return home to ask his father for forgiveness and mercy.
DON’T STEAL THEIR TESTIMONY
When I stopped and thought about it, before I gave my life to Jesus, I was a prodigal, too. Here’s what I remind myself: God allowed me to live and lie with pigs. These painful years opened my eyes and dropped me to my knees.
I want my child to be on fire for Jesus, but, I don’t want him to walk through fire to get there. I don’t want my son to live and lie with pigs. Ultimately, what I’m saying is that I actively want to take the pen from God’s hand and write my son’s testimony. If I had my way, my son would follow Christ without any cost to him at all.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I came to give my life to Jesus. It’s not how I came to love Him with a passion I can’t explain. It’s not how this walk of faith works. An added benefit to loving Jesus is knowing I’ve been forgiven of so much. (Luke 7:47) Isn’t this what I want for my own son?
It’s not easy to allow pain to touch a rebellious child. The prodigal son’s father can give us a few lessons in that area:
- Let your child make mistakes. If I think about those I know who passionately love the Lord, they all have one BIG thing in common: Their road to the cross was filled with quite a few mistakes. Sin is what brings each and every one of us to the cross. Remember that.
- Don’t interfere with God’s plan. When the prodigal son was eating with pigs, his father didn’t send him more money or call his farmer friends to get him a better job. He didn’t send cards or have people check on him and report back. Surrender and step back.
- Let your son feel the sting of consequence. Watching a child experience sin’s consequence is terribly hard. Don’t enable bad choices by protecting him from their painful results. Lying with pigs may be what needs to happen. Let your child get a belly full. God knows what consequence will encourage repentance and bring your child back. Don’t step in the way of what God allows. He can turn any mistake, misstep or misfortune in your child’s life into something good and for His glory.
A child who rebels, no matter what their age, becomes the holy sandpaper used to refine us, too. I don’t share this to depress you; I share this to gently encourage you. Because I also learned:
- Don’t steal your child’s testimony. His God-story is unfolding before your eyes. Let it play out. Trust God.
- Resist the temptation to rescue. That’s God’s job, not yours. Unsuccessful choices are sometimes the best teachers. Mother Teresa said, “God doesn’t call us to be successful; He calls us to be faithful.”
- Prayers of a heartsick mother are never ignored. If your patience and perseverance are hanging by a worn thread, God’s promises remain stronger than ever. Weariness may come, but a prayer life is your refreshing time. Praying is your work to do; answering those prayers is God’s.
My son was always the rambunctious child with a heart of gold. His rebellious years felt incredibly long. Today, he’s a grown man with a college degree and our relationship is a beautiful thing. If you’d told me five years ago this is where he’d be, I’m not sure I would’ve believed it. I guess that’s exactly how faith and prayer work when it comes to our kids.
For some of us, we’re still waiting for that moment of rejoicing. Sweet friend, here’s what I know that I know that I know…whether my kids rebel or stay on the narrow path, I’m learning to trust. When emotions run high and hurt runs deep, I seek Him. God promises in His word to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). To know my children are walking in truth (3 John 1:4) is the deepest desire of my mom-heart, even more than calling me every week or spending Thanksgiving at our house. No matter what age my children are and no matter how much they choose to rebel, I’m going to allow Him to write their God-story.