Prodigals, and Mothers Who Love Them

My name is Sheila Atchley, and I am the mother of a wanna-be Prodigal.

I call him a "wanna be", because he isn't quite the full blown Prodigal...he's tried to play the part, and that hurt me deep enough, and hurts me still, God knows. But I've always taught others that a Prodigal isn't a Prodigal until he or she will have nothing more to do with you.

Short of that, short of a severed relationship, what you have is a son or daughter in need of tough and tender love; tender love first, tender love last, with plenty of tough love in between. But without tender love, without a relationship, tough love has no context, because no one is listening. As long as there is an active relationship, you don't have a prodigal, you have someone in need of a lot of grace. Sort of like some other people you know, right?

Now. I believe every word I just said to you. I'd bet my life on the verity of all of it...but now, I want to get heartrendingly real with you. No one can lead or mentor until they are authentic with their pain, as well as their joy.

Nothing will mature or sanctify you (or age you) faster than staying in relationship with a child who hurts you, repeatedly. Well...nothing will mature you faster, if you are sticking and staying, if you are applying the Gospel to your every day life. Of course, you could espouse a pseudo-Gospel, and justify severing relationships to dull your pain.

But you don't grow that way. You don't fill up the sufferings of Christ that way.

Be honest. You aren't "coming out from among them and being separate". You aren't defending God's reputation. You aren't doing the "tough love" thing. You are laying your child in the bushes to die, and walking away.

Because you love her.

Because you think she's going to die spiritually anyway if she continues down the road she is on. And you think that walking away, allowing the distance between the two of you, is better than having to watch her die.

I know. I feel it too. I wrestle with the urge to detach. Because I love him. I love my son.

A woman of ancient times named Hagar felt it. Her son Ishmael was dying, no question about it. It was not a matter of "if he dies", it was a matter of "when". It was only a matter of time.

"When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink."

I cannot even write this without tears. I sob, along with Hagar of old. If writing really is opening up a vein and bleeding on the page, then this page of my blog is a warm pool of bright red. When a child is not walking with God, you never stop feeling the pain of that. My tears will run rivulets, my wound will be fresh until my son is completely revived in his spirit...until he lives as one who has finally drank deeply from the well of salvation.

I know in whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him. Grace will accomplish what the law never could, I am still declaring it, even though sometimes I declare it through tears. This child will live and not die.

The wages of sin is death, that is true.

But the gift of God is eternal life, through Christ Jesus.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that is true. But never...never...never quote Romans 3:23 without 3:24...

... all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

God asked Hagar such piercing questions. In an earlier encounter, it was "Where have you come from? Where are you going?" and now, the question is, "What is the matter?"

Oh, dear friend and fellow mother - God is asking you and I the same thing. "What is the matter?" Or, in other words, "Why are you crying?" It is our job to search our hearts and answer honestly. It is only in the honest answer that we will discover the God Who Sees Us...which is one of the names for God that Hagar personally discovered...through her honest answers.

The honest answer? We aren't doing the "tough love" thing. We think our child is going to die. It seems that way. And so we want to walk away. "Let me not see the child die."

We need our eyes opened to see the well of salvation that has always been there, and is still there, available to our children...and to us.

Let's drink deeply, you and I...and pray that our sons and daughters will begin to cry as bitterly as we have. He will hear their cries and answer them with living water.

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