Several years ago, while I was away on a business trip, I received a call from my eighteen-year-old son, Kyle.
“Hey, Mom . . . guess what?”
Without giving me a chance to hazard a guess, his excited voice continued.
“I might be moving to Canada.”
Now to put things into perspective, Canada is a twenty-four hour plus flight, excluding stopovers, away from our home in sunny South Africa, way down at the bottom of the globe.
“Oh really,” came my chilly response. “I don’t think so.”
We’re all familiar with the parable of the Lost or Prodigal Son
We’ve read the story and heard endless sermons about the father’s anguish or the older brother’s jealousy. But how many readers of this popular parable have stopped to spare a thought for the prodigal’s mother. I hadn’t. Until now.
Maybe his mother had already passed on from this life—the scriptures make no mention of her, and how many of us even pay any mind to the fact that this capricious young man could have had a mother. Perhaps she doesn’t feature because of the way ancient middle-eastern culture viewed their women. Perhaps it’s just because the father is really the central figure of this story.
Whatever the reasons why Jesus didn’t bring her into this tale, I’m convinced that the Prodigal’s mother was there all along. If we could read between the lines, we’d probably see her standing in the shadows, cringing at the mistakes she knew her son was about to make, trying to talk him out of his foolish ways, weeping before God to intervene and knock some semblance of common sense into her headstrong child.
I know I did.
And God did exactly that, but not in a way that we, as Kyle’s parents, would ever have thought to pray, nevertheless, in a way the Father knew would work a life-changing miracle.*
Doubtless the Prodigal was nothing more than an ordinary, willful teenager, determined to act upon an impulse, a momentary desire, regardless of the opinions or advice of those older and wiser―much like the teens of today.
Oh, we tried to caution our eighteen-year-old to look at the bigger picture, cautioning him that life cannot always be looked at through rose-coloured glasses. The result and unfair response: “You don’t support me in my dreams for the future!”
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Like the Prodigal’s parents, I knew I had to let go and let God
Like the Prodigal’s parents, I knew I had to let go and let God, but the thought of my youngest setting off for a distant country pained me. I had visions of him squandering his earnings. Images where he, thankfully, does not literally live among the pigs, but has so much to learn about how not to live in the sty. Who would be there for him in this foreign country, urging him to learn how to pick up his clothes, pack away his washing, tidy the dishes, clean his own room?
His world was tinted with snowboarding shades and the hue of Raybans™ to match his designer job (the one he didn’t yet have). My mind, on the other hand, swam with concern over what he would eat and how he would cope when loneliness struck.
I prayed . . .
My prayers, as I’m sure were the Prodigal’s parents, were that:
- this whim would blow over (and it did). At the time, however, it was my deepest desire that if my son did get to Canada, he would prosper and not fail.
- I prayed if God did open the door for him, that, hard as it would be, I’d send him off with tears and my blessing.
- And I prayed that if it wasn’t the Father’s will, and he still chose to rush down this road of daredevilry, that when he finally came to his senses, he’d remember that home would always be a sunny spot at the bottom of his world.
- I prayed he’d never forget that he could always come home to his father―and mother―who’d be waiting for him at the end of his journey. I’d be there, as I know in my heart the Prodigal’s mamma was, stoking up the fire and placing the fattened lamb on the spit.
God answered my prayers
* Soon after the Canada whim, God took Kyle to Cape Town for a year, a two-hour flight away from home. There his spiritual life blossomed, resulting in him dedicating his life to God in missions. Today, nearly six years later, he does live far away from home (and has for half that time)—first in Finland, and now in Hungary, doing full-time mission work.
Do you have a Prodigal son or daughter you’re praying for, waiting for?
Entrust them into those beautiful, nail-scarred hands—they’re the only hands that are able to keep them from falling, able to bring them back home again.