Revisiting the prodigal son story recently, I realized I did not know what the word “prodigal” meant. I thought it referred to the son coming back, but instead it means “characterized by wasteful expenditure”. As parents, we don’t want to find ourselves estranged from our children. We yearn for closeness and a strong relationship of trust as they grow. It may even be something you pray about regularly. What I find fascinating about this story is how it ends, or doesn’t end. The father is outside trying to convince the older son to come and welcome the prodigal back into the circle of trust. We don’t find out what he decided to do.
While I know we don’t want to raise a prodigal child, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to avoid raising a hard-hearted, judgmental child. The older son had a right to be upset and all of his arguments were founded, but the bottom line is that the Father chose to show mercy. It was a forgiveness that was expensive and undeserved, but that was the Father’s call. After all those years together, the older son somehow missed the nature of the Father.
May God’s kind of love and His unmatched forgiveness dominate our understanding of who we are to be on this earth. May our hearts resonate with His insistence on extravagant mercy in a way that our children also love to show mercy. Blessings as you parent each of your children to extend their arms to one another.
Jesus, You paid price for our prodigal behavior. You made it possible for us to be welcomed home again. Thank you for this powerful parable and the image of God that it offers us. Empower us as parents to help our children understand how to be merciful, just as you are merciful. Amen