“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3 NASB)
That verse can be a puzzle to a family in crisis. They have watched this little one turn against them and the God they love with such fierceness it takes their breath away. What happened to the fairytale picture? And, frankly, this doesn’t seem like much of a gift or a reward.
We all do the job of parenting imperfectly so when our children turn their back on God we blame ourselves. We were either too hard or not hard enough. Whichever side we err on we wish we had gone the other way.
There will also be plenty of people to point out our short comings. Society and the church blame the parents for a troubled child. If only you had loved them more, spoiled them less, given them more rules, given them less rules, loved them unconditionally, set more boundaries, given tough love, built up their self-esteem, given them more responsibility, worked on projects together. You should have given them more freedom and allowed them to be their own person. The list is endless.
Because of these reactions many parents of prodigals go underground. They know their child is in trouble, but they don’t want to be honest with the church at large because it is so unacceptable.
If you are under the mistaken impression that only bad parents have troubled children let’s look at Genesis 3. God was a hands on parent. He formed Adam and breathed life into him. He loved Adam and Eve perfectly and unconditionally. They had an extensive father/son project in naming all the animals. He gave them the responsibility of tending and caring for the garden. He gave them many “yesses” and only one “no.” He spent time walking with them in the cool of the day. Then God, the perfect parent, watched his children turn away in rebellion. When confronted Adam tried to shift the blame to Eve and even God. (Gen. 3:12) There is no blaming God for the result. The rebellion was not because of a mistake in parenting.
This is a problem as old as time and yet we still expect children from Christian homes to fall perfectly in line. When they don’t we usually find fault with the parents. In our blame shifting world we forget that our children are ultimately responsible before God for the decisions they make. We as imperfect parents are going to give them plenty of excuses to disobey. But when God says, “Children obey your parents,” there isn’t an escape clause that says “only if your parents are doing it right.”
We are responsible before God to be the best parents we can be. We need God’s daily grace to even come close to that goal. We also must remember that our children are responsible before God to obey. They need God’s daily grace to follow the instructions of imperfect parents.
If you are a parent with a prodigal don’t despair. The pain you are feeling has been felt by God many times over. You have something in common with the God who created you. While your pain is awful it doesn’t compare to what God feels. He is showing you a bit of His own experience. I pray that it will cause you to cling to him all the more.