Waiting for the Prodigal Son
Waiting is never easy. We learn early that waiting is one of the most difficult parts of life. It is especially hard when we are waiting for a baby to be born, the results of a serious medical test, or a teen to return from a date. Perhaps, however, one of the most difficult times of waiting occurs when a loved one leaves home out of rebellion, breaking communication with those left behind. How can we handle these times and draw strength while waiting for reconciliation?
My friend, Linda, told me periodically how difficult it was waiting for her rebellious son to return home. She wasn’t sure where he was or what was happening to him. She was clinging to the hope that one day he would return and understand God’s forgiving love. Her daily prayers, and those of her friends and family, reflected this urgent plea. How often, as we talked, did I think about the prodigal son as reported in Luke 15:11. This impatient, wasteful son traveled to a distant land, away from responsibilities and parental restraints. Thinking only of himself and his immediate desires, the son asked for his inheritance and left, “Father, give me my share of the
estate” (Luke 15:12, NIV).
As the parable continues, we realize that the son found himself in a place of famine and in a situation that was a humiliating and frightening. Jesus, of course, related this parable to point out God’s love for the returning sinner. The son’s wasteful, riotous living had depleted his inheritance, and he lead an unclean life—feeding the pigs (verse 15)—the most unclean animal for him and his people.
What struck me about this parable as I connected it to Linda’s situation, was the parent’s response to the prodigal son. What did the father do while waiting, I wondered. How did he handle the wait? How do we handle the wait today?
We learn that this is not only a parable of a rebellious son, but also of a loving, forgiving father. Parents may have many fears when a child leaves even in the best of circumstances. A call home, a letter, or a visit helps to quell the fears. But what about the angry child--the one who leaves the household under difficult circumstances and does not communicate with the parent? How does a loving parent handle the fears associated with not knowing what is happening to the child? I believe we can learn four spiritual insights from this parable about what God wishes for us to do while we are waiting.
1. We are to continue serving the Lord while we wait, believing God for the safely and return of the child. In the parable we can see that the father had given the son his inheritance. Though broken-hearted I am sure, the father waited for the son to return, continuing in his own daily duties and responsibilities.
2. We are to keep waiting and watching for the lost one, with anticipation that God will restore. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him” (Luke 15:20). That part of the parable would indicate that the father watched the road and horizon for the son’s return. We should prayerfully keep our eyes on the Lord, trusting in His care and timing.
3. We are to be prepared to welcome the son or daughter as an individual of great importance and with much happiness and celebration. He “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24). Jesus shows us that when the wayward one returns, we are to rejoice, as He does when one of his children turns from sin and comes “home” to Him. We are to offer the best we have--the fatted calf, ring, best robe, and shoes” (verses 23-24). God offered us His Son--the best that He had.
4. Finally, we are to accept the individual with compassion as a family member--with love and privileges, as God does us. It was a humbling experience for the returning prodigal. He wanted mercy and forgiveness. As the Lord offers the same today to us, so it is by His Spirit that we offer love and compassion to today’s prodigals. Our Heavenly Father knows our weaknesses and failures, and accepts us with love. So, by His example, we must do the same for those who
return to us.