There are many days when I feel overwhelmed being a mom of three young children. Of course they bless my heart in so many ways, but I feel emotionally weighed down on the demanding days of discipline, mediating disputes and constant shepherding. My heart breaks when I see my childrens’ sin running rampant, an abundance of offenses that affect everyone –especially me.
The majority of outward sinfulness exudes from one child in particular. He is a walking, talking cloud of simultaneous joy, strife, fun and sin. We’ve found him in a variety of precarious situations ranging from walking outside by himself three doors down the street (a 3-year-old escapee!) to chasing his siblings around with scissors trying to cut them. When he gets upset, he runs to his room, slamming the door. Then, when he is good and ready, he will come out screaming with joy, ready for another adventure.
I have another child who is almost perfect. She plays independently, makes up adventures outside and loves to read, so you will often find her cozied up in a corner with her idea of a good book (think Mary-Kate and Ashley adventures!). She’s also the safety patrol, the justice police, and the snack monitor. She’s all about order and putting the wrongdoer in his place.
As I was reading the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, it hit me that these two children of mine are just like the younger and older brother. And the father — Oh, can I empathize with his plight! First, he is primarily dealing with the sin of his younger son, who basically wished he was dead when he requested the inheritance and left home. Then, he has to deal with the older son who can’t comprehend his radical and irresponsible grace.
Isn’t this how it goes at your house? You finish shepherding one child, feeling at peace with the the situation and relieved that it’s over, and as you are leaving the room another child throws a big fit, has an accident or you overhear a dispute in the next room. Awesome. Just what you wanted to do right now.
This father is in the same boat. He may not be dealing with minor things like wiping spills and divvying out Legos, but he’s still a parent wrestling through loving his kids, just as we are.
Between the excitement of his youngest son coming home, arranging a big feast, hosting, pleading with his oldest son, and the heartbreak of his rejection, he must feel pretty overwhelmed! I can empathize because I have felt all those things before.
Dealing with a child’s rejection, shepherding another child who may seek to earn God’s favor, planning meals, hosting parties, and also the flood of emotions — it can give us a sense of what he must have been going through.
Now, switch roles and set the scene as it truly is. The wonderful father from the parable is our Father in heaven — the God of the universe, Creator and Sustainer of life. The One who loves us constantly though we reject Him. The One who sees us from afar and sprints to us, rejoicing at our repentance like a little joyful child. The One who lavishes His grace and provision on us, though we’re far from deserving it and try desperately to earn it.
As our kids age, we will no doubt become more emotionally invested in them, leading to more joy and more heartache. By the power of God’s strength alone, we can emulate grace, love and tenderness, like our gracious Father.
Mel Caldicott says
Kendra, this is so insightful. I too am a mum of three, one of which tends to be the troublemaker and one is peaceful, caring and rarely causes problems (the third is somewhere in between!). The way you have described dealing with one problem and then immediately hearing another one firing up resonates soooo much!
I love the lessons you have highlighted by comparing our everyday parenting experiences with the story of the prodigal son. I am so grateful for the endless patience of God – which so surpasses my own as a parent.
Mel from Essential Thing Devotions
Thank you for your honesty! I’m pretty sure you were just writing about my 2 children as well! It is so awesome to come to a place where people are not trying to pretend that life is always great, their children are perfectly managed by them at all times etc., etc. As much faith as I have been blessed with their are still so many days I wonder how God trusted ME with these 2 gifts? He knows I mess up everyday, sometimes REALLY mess up and it’s hard for me to imagine that he forgives me, everyday! I pray for all mom’s out there, who, like me, pray that God leads them through their days, helps them choose their word carefully and pours out His mercy each night! Thank you again for your honesty!
I am in the same boat! I love the parallel between us and the prodigal’s father and us and the prodigal himself. Thank you for sharing this.
And I do think the hardest moments are when one issue is freshly resolved just as another one starts! Mercy.
Just recently I thought about the story of the prodigal son and my sons. The youngest was quiet, willing to help anyone who needed help, smart, and a good athlete. His older brother (21 months older) has a slight learning problem, gets very upset at little things, storms to his room and slams doors. The youngest got in with the wrong crowd and fell on hard times. However he did not come home to his earthly parents instead late one night we got a call from his brother, with whom he was living, telling us that when he came home from work he found his younger brother had hung himself. Months after this happened I was talking to God and said “I didn’t know what to do to help him so I gave him back to you to take care of.” and I heard the Lord whisper “and I did”. I now believe our son went running to his Heavenly Father asking forgiveness and God forgave him. The older brother has now become someone we depend on almost as much as we did his younger brother. My story is a little different but God is still the loving Father and my younger son has been forgiven. The older brother is doing better but needs lots of prayer.
Thanks for letting me tell my story!
Kendra Duty says
Oh Karen – I am so sorry for your tragic loss. It’s always hard to hear stories like yours even though we trust that God works out everything for the good of those who love Him. I am so grateful for His mercy toward you in whispering His truth and comforting your heart as only He could. It’s in those moments that He gives hope and allows our wandering hearts to be planted in truth, seeing and knowing Him in ways deeper than we ever have before. Thank you for sharing your story and allowing God to use it. I will pray for your older son today as I pray for my own sons.
Beth Williams says
Prayers for you as you deal with the loss of your son. I’m glad, though, that you saw it as your Heavenly father answering your prayers to help your son. Too often people get awash in depression & question themselves as to what they did wrong,
I pray God will surround you and your family and help you to heal and lean on Him for support.
Thank you Kendra for such beautiful writing ! At 51, I too am a prodigal daughter seeking to return to her Heavenly Father through His beloved Son. I have one child, a nearly perfect daughter,(22) filled with grace and truth like our Savior ! Swear she is an angel, and it terrifies me ! (due to my gaping flaws/sins !) I love your generation with all of my heart ! You seek the truth, and are able to speak it with love and MERCY ! No guile ! Accepting and tolerant of all people as diverse and unique as they come. God’s Love, wisdom and discernment to guide your little ones is my prayer for you, and the ONLY suggestion I can possibly make here ( I believe God gave you every gift imaginable for these days! : ) ) is please, try not to favor one child over another. I have a strong feeling that your “scissor wielding” wise guy(s) will also become King Davids, Joshuas, Esthers and Deborahs ! For your peacemaking, already “God-like” merciful sweeties, needs met and promises kept are essential I have learned. You are walking out your salvation remarkably, and I praise God for your beauty and honesty as an example for this “grandma” ! Thank You !
Kendra Duty says
Yes! What a great comment! It can be easy to favor in those difficult moments but by the grace of God, I am so in love with all 3 of my children. I have seen God use my scissor man (ironically we call him “Easy Man”) in so many ways and I have the highest hopes for how God will use him in the future. I am grateful God called me to be his mom and just praying for faithfulness as I shepherd him and the other two. Thank you for your encouragement! I wish more “grandmas” would put their two cents in – its invaluable!
Patty Muich says
Thank you for this post. 🙂 I had never looked at my kid’s this way but you sure hit the nail on the head. LOL! As for God and me? He probably thinks I am bi-polar as sometimes I am very very good and sometimes I am horrid. But I will not give up and I truly believe the horrid will get smaller and smaller as I learn and walk the walk. Again… thanks for the great post!
Joanne Peterson says
Oh my, this so talks to my situation. I, with my second time around raising children was not really prepared with these two boys only 11 months apart. They both trade off being well-behaved and then morph into great balls of fire. And when they conspire together, well this Mama can’t even get the words out of my mouth to correct them because they are so quick to move and shut off their listening ears. I, then have gotten so short and loud with them. Not a good example. The constant, constant clean up and correcting does wear me out.
But, my Heavenly Father has been whispering to me about still being thankful, and speaking that out to correct my thinking, and spending time with them before I get down to the day’s “business.” I know I love them, but my boys need to “know and ‘feel’ I love them.” I am so grateful for those whispers from my Heavenly Father.
Thank you for this reminder of just loving my children unconditionally, for the long haul, and the training and rejoicing is for the long haul, and letting my children know I notice their repentance.
Kendra Duty says
Joanne – I love your description: “great balls of fire”…everything you said…yes! I am right there with you – much less gracious and patient than I wish to be – asking them and God for forgiveness all the time. Glad you were encouraged! Blessings to you as well!
Dianne Stavropoulos says
God has used parenting like nothing else to teach me of the depth of His love and grace and good intentions toward me. Thank you for sharing this insight and practical application of the prodigal son story.
Paula McLane Jennings says
This so resonates with me. My eldest son was the perfect child…until he turned 14. He asked Jesus into his heart at 2. He started reading the bible at 5. He had been a straight A student, polite, respectful, helpful. At 14 he started smoking pot and drinking. He became nasty, disrespectful and barely made it through high school. He eventually ended up on harder drugs, stole money and my credit cards. Fortunately, he has been clean and sober now for nearly 2 years. His behavior is far from perfect and often still disrespectful but still much improved. My younger son was a terror as a toddler. Somewhat disrespectful at an early age (he is 6 years younger and picked it up when the older one went astray). Was hit by a car as a pedestrian and got PTSD which caused nasty violent outbursts. He often tells me I should die, that he is leaving to live with his father when he returns etc. But, he is also the first one to help me when I get sick. Caring when I have a migraine, worried about me when I am alone. He has a learning disability related to dyslexia so his grades are not spectacular but teachers always say he is a pleasure to have in class (when he does his assignments or homework!) He has vowed not to do drugs because of what ‘we’ went through with his brother (and I found out recently that he also went through with his father). He has experimented a few times and always admitted and repented immediately. But, all in all, both of them have been miracles from conception – my ex had HIV and none of us were infected. They were both one time risks after months of fertility treatements and artificial insemination didn’t work. So I know they are who they were meant to be and that God blessed me with them issues and all. And I love them both with all my heart and always will.
Beth Williams says
I have been a prodigal daughter for a while. I have also been a dutiful one that helps out when she can. I know that God can and will work out all things for the Good of people who love and trust Him.