I’ve been pondering the concept of parental love of a “goodly” parent for the last couple of months. I am learning more and more from day to day that the love of a parent for a child is the most profound because it lasts more than a life time. It lasts for an eternity. It demands consistency. Some times it demands a deeper plunge then previously perceived due to the challenges, twists and turns, and heart break that often come with parenting. I’ve been thinking and I’ve come to the conclusion that I have learned the most about parenting from the prodigal son’s dad.
The story of the prodigal son is a story of a young man who demands many things from his father, takes matters into his own hands and willfully rebels. This young man feels he knows more than his parents. He sets aside his upbringing and the family values he has been taught from birth and strikes out on his own. The results are less than impressive. He ends up in great poverty – heart, soul, and financially. He eventually crawls home to his father hoping to be a servant.
Okay. This should be a familiar story to many parents. What parent has not experienced a child attempting to break free with a “leave me alone, I want to do this my way” path? What parent has not experienced a toddler who refuses to put shoes on the right feet? What parent has not experienced their elementary school age child picking up “potty” words faster than they pick up math concepts? What parent has not experienced a teen who plays video games or is sucked into their social media accounts for hours while their grades degrade with the lack of completed homework?These scenarios are something I’ve faced and I needed answers.
I learned a few things from the prodigal son’s father. First, I am sure he taught his son well. Second, he allowed choice in his home. And third, he rarely, if ever, said no. Not only did he provide for the needs of his son, but he provided him with his wants as well. As a parent, I am sure he understood that the boy was making foolish choices, yet he had the courage to allow him to make foolish choices. He gave him all the money and goods. He watched him walk away.
Even more impressive, when his son comes home, the father is the rock of all things true and good, constant and lasting. He seems to have never lost faith in his wayward son. He is ready to receive the son with open arms. Amazing! Incredible!
The father is the expression of real parental love… unchanging love. It isn’t unconditional love, but it was conditional. It was love grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ – that God is the creator of mankind, that man is complete and a good creation and fully functional in the express image of the Creator. In short, this father understood the doctrine that we are all children of God. He understood that God is the embodiment of love. If God is the embodiment of love and man is a child of God, then man is also in the image of love. Thus, man is loving… and sometimes man forgets. Man is loved… and sometimes man forgets. Man is lovable… and sometimes we all forget. This father is the example of refusing to believe that his son was anything less than these fundamental points. This father simply, purely and constantly loves – and even waits for the son to return to his home and his roots. His love his conditional – that we are Childers of God.
This father is able to successful separate the behavior from the child. I have worked hard to follow his example. The result has been miraculous. I have learned that I am able to love more deeply than I ever thought I could. I have learned that I love more because I am able to love what’s real about my child. I am working on separating actions from child and not making everything so personal… when I succeed words and actions are no longer hateful or hurtful daggers to my heart. I am successful in remembering that my children are His before they are mine.
The story of the father of the prodigal son has taught me a few more important principles: A parent is endlessly patient, who puts aside the “I’m bigger, older, wiser and better than you” feelings. There is no longer the need to “win” the battle. There is no need to compete. A parent is persistent and consistent. There is no wiggle room or excuses. A parent expresses compassion and mercy without sacrificing morality, ethics, or justice. A parent is a role model of flexibility and fortitude. These two qualities are the foundation in an ever changing world.
I have come to cherish my relationship with my Eternal Father. I cherish my knowledge that I am a child of God. This knowledge has made me a better parent.