The Father of the Prodigal Son

Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs I have ever had. The world we live in is ruled by metrics, rules that if followed will yield a specific result. Unfortunately with parenting there are no rules, metrics, or definable results. You can do all the ‘right’ things by society’s standards but still not get your desired results. This is largely because people are unpredictable and everyone doesn’t always follow the same rules. What works for one person is likely not to work for the very next person, children included. 

This brings me to the story of the prodigal son. This is a message that you are likely familiar with or have at least heard over the years. I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes versions.

The son of a rich man goes to his father to demand his share of his inheritance so that he can basically live the lavish life while he is young instead of waiting until the father passes away. He squanders all of his inheritance partying with friends and strangers. He finds himself homeless and pretty much working in a pig pen for food. The bible says “he came to his senses…” (Luke 15:17) He knew that even if he worked for his father that he would be in better shape than he was at the moment. He then decided to make the journey back home prepared to be just a worker for his father. 

The story goes on to say that his father saw him in the distance and began to celebrate. He ran to him kissing his face and ordering that he be cleaned up and that the house prepare for a banquet in his honor. Although the son tried to explain that he was unworthy and ask for his forgiveness the father refused to hear it instead treated him like nothing had happened. 

The story is usually talked about from the perspective of the son and the redemptive powers of love between parent and child. Today I implore you to see things a different way, from the perspective of the father. I didn’t understand how hard being a parent was until I became one. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I began to see my parents as human. I understood why my mom would be so angry if we forgot to take something out of the freezer after a long day of work. I knew what it felt like to be so tired that I didn’t feel like talking or touching. I can now quantify the sacrifices it took for us to live the way that we did. I get it now. 

I’ve read this story 100 times but it wasn’t until recently that I saw something different. I know what it is like to be frustrated with your children because they made what you feel was the wrong decision. I’ve watched in disappointment as my children have run straight into the pain I was trying to shield them from. But I also know that some lessons can’t be taught, they have to be earned because nothing teaches you to not touch the fire like a 3rd degree burn. 

But how do you respond after they have made the mistake? If your child comes to you and asks your forgiveness do you continue to chastise them? Do you bring up how you were right and they should’ve listened to you all along? Let’s look at what the father did in this situation:

  1. He saw him in the distance. I believe that to mean he had hoped that his son would come home one day and he was expecting him. 
  2. He met him with a hug and kiss. He showed through his actions that he had forgiven his son. 
  3. He celebrated with family and friends. He made his forgiveness public so that everyone would know how to treat his son. 

The last point is important because it sets the tone for how forgiveness flows out of you and over to other people. No matter what the son had done, he knew that he could go home. He knew his father was an honest, fair man and even if he was a worker in his father’s home he would still be treated better than how he was on the streets. 

As a young adult I made a ton of mistakes and found myself heading ‘home’ in plenty of situations. My mom was always there accepting me with open arms and not making me feel bad for the decisions that I had made. She was home in every sense of the words. 

My advice is to be like the parent of the prodigal son. Always be a place that your kids can come back to.