I recently gave a talk on prodigals to a number of parents. I hope to get a recording of that up on the podcast soon. In my talk I focused on things we can control. I listed five areas to focus on:
Focus on your heart.
Focus on your parenting dynamics.
Focus on your relationship with them.
Focus on their view of Jesus.
Focus on their behavior if they are still living at home.
There is too much to print for this article but let me just include the second section – Focus on Your Parenting Dynamics. This is much of what I said.
1. Put responsibility back where it belongs.
Our goal as parent is to be faithful. Not necessarily successful. The question is, “Have we been faithful?”
And we need to remember that God has made us all with the ability to make choices for which we will give an account. In this podcast, my associate pastor speaks of a time he deliberately turned away as a teen. His parents had done nothing wrong. He was just mad at God for allowing a friend to die. Another friend of mine has told me of a time as a teen when he rebelled. He just did not like the lifestyle Jesus demanded. He wanted to sin.
Sometimes as parents we forget that sin is first a problem on the inside not the outside or environment.
Charles Spurgeon remembers this prayer of his mother:
“I cannot tell you how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother. It was the custom on Sunday evenings, while we were yet little children, for her to stay at home with us, and then we sat round the table and read verse by verse, and she explained the Scripture to us. After that was done, then came the time of pleading; there was a little piece of “Alleyn’s Alarm,” or of Baxter’s “Call to the Unconverted,” and this was read with pointed observations made to each of us as we sat round the table; and the question was asked how long it would be before we would think about our state, how long before we would seek the Lord. Then came a mother’s prayer, and some of the words of a mother’s prayer we shall never forget, even when our hair is grey. I remember on one occasion her praying thus: ‘Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.’ That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience and stirred my heart. This pleading with them for God and with God for them is the true way to bring children to Christ. ”
Knowing that we were faithful does not take away the painful feeling but it does take away the guilt feeling
2. Be aware of self-centered victimization and emotional blackmail.
We live in a child-centered world and a victimized world. It seems as if we are living in the new dark ages. When our country’s most educated people don’t know what a woman is, dark ideas have decended upon us.
In addition, we live in a psychologized and therapeutic world. Everyone is working through what their parents did to them. Rather than honoring their parents, they are blaming them. Everyone, it seems, needs a therapist. Unfortunately this is the air our children are breathing.
Along with this comes what others have called emotional blackmail. Emotional blackmail says “If I feel hurt, it is because you sinned and did something wrong.” This is not true. Sin causes us to curve in on ourselves. And being a victim gives you power. So the more deeply a child sinks into sin, the greater the self-absorption. Please read more on emotional blackmail here. It is vital you understand this important topic.
This new “trophy” generation is self-righteous in pointing out the sin in others without looking at the sin in their own hearts.
3. Love wisely.
In Philippians 1, Paul writes this prayer for that church. “This is my prayer that you love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9).
Paul prayed and therefore God encourages us to pray in two ways. First, we pray for more love. We pray that our love might increase and abound.
Second, we pray to love more wisely. We pray to love with more knowledge and insight. Why? Love is multifaceted. Love encourages and admonishes. Sometimes love comforts. Sometimes love rebukes and disciplines (Rev 3:19) It takes wisdom to know how to love.
I once had a professor with a prodigal in her 20s living in his home. I remember him saying, “Every morning my wife and I wake up and pray, ‘Lord, do we rescue her today or do we let her feel the consequences?'”
We constantly pray for the Lord’s wisdom.
So let’s focus on what we can control. And when it comes to our own parenting thoughts: put responsibility where it belongs, avoid emotional blackmail, and love wisely.