Friday, September 2, 2011

To The Parents of Prodigal Children

My heart aches for you. I can see you standing there, eyes tear-blurred and weary straining down the broken road you watched your child stumble down until they were out of sight.

Another day sinks away and you barely breathe the pain-filled question to the Only Son in all this pressing darkness.

When will my child come home?

I can not answer that question for you. But, as a former prodigal daughter who trudged the long road home intending to crawl back to try to survive as a servant --and instead was made a co-heir with Christ himself--may I offer some words of encouragement?

I wanted to write this because I know the situation looks, and feels, hopeless. It's not. There is Hope. I know Him. He is the One that gave me hope and a future. He is the very same God who is pursuing your child. There is Hope. 

Though I don't know the specific route your child has taken, or what heart-wrenching turns have taken them out of sight, I would like to share a little of my journey because the path your child is on and the one I took nine years ago are similar in this way: they both lead away from home. From Him.

Where I went:

To more and more isolated places in my spirit, mind, heart, and eventually, physical location. I was wounded. By others. By my own actions. And, I felt, by God. This woundedness festered into fear. One of the chief fears was, ironically, of being alone.

Loneliness aches in the deepest places and feels all wrong. Because it is. We were not created to be lonely, but secure in the faithful love of Him who designed us for happily ever after. I was also afraid of stillness, unfilled time, quiet. I did not want to process the rush of issues that attacked me in down time. That is probably why so much of my sin was sought out and acted on in the isolating, eerie quiet of normal sleeping hours.

My woundedness and fears manifested themselves in a slew of ways including: lying, selfishness, anger, misuse of money, self abuse through cutting and food deprivation, drinking, drugs, promiscuity, an abortion, and suicide attempts.

What brought me back home?:

Relentless Love.

Love is the only motivator I know that is more powerful than fear.

It was God's relentless loving kindness expressed towards me--mainly through my parents--that lead me to repentance. A true place of turning, of change.

What you can do(certainly not a complete list, just four humble suggestions):

1) Pray.

Pray. Pray. Pray!

Then pray more.

He hears you. He is close to you and your child with your crushed spirits and broken hearts.

Pray for their correction. Pray for their direction. And please, pray for their protection.

They are in way over their head. I cannot tell you how many dangerous doors I tried to walk through that were inexplicably slammed in my face. As an attractive, isolated young woman with lots of money(I was making $1,500 a day as a model), who was actively looking for trouble... I should have been able to find a whole lot more than I did. Trust me, there is no other explanation than God.

And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, God was answering my parents continual prayers. As disconnected as I was with God I knew He was opposed to my actions and for all my fiercest efforts He shut me down repeatedly with "this far, and no farther."

I am so grateful.

Through my parents prayers God even told my mother specifically at one point that I was pregnant and considering an abortion. I hadn't told anyone but my best friend. I didn't live at home. I didn't let them in on anything that was going on in my life. But God did. And that is another story you can read a little about here. But I pray this encourages you that The LORD really does confide in those who fear Him. Pray.

2) Love.

Love them by helping, as you have opportunity, to expose the lies they are believing, acting on, feeling as truth. You can do this by focusing on the root cause of the sin--their departure from their relationship with God--rather than on the symptoms of the sin you are seeing in their actions.

Yes, actions/symptoms have to be addressed to varying extents, but you will help them so much by keeping such complicated issues simple. If your loved one is being self-destructive try to help them realize that their choices are growing from roots of loneliness, fear, lack of direction, purpose and passion, woundedness, confused thinking, deception, and pride.

These things must be ripped out at their roots for the symptoms to stop cropping up in different areas. Only Christ can do this. Keep directing them back to Him. Only He can answer the deepest questions and fears of the heart as each one needs to hear.

And regardless of how assertive they are about what they "know" about truth, what is right, the reality of God(as I was), it is only a cognitive knowing--not an experiential knowing. And knowing by experience that the LORD is God Most High is the beginning of the fear of the LORD, which is the very beginning of wisdom and knowledge. They are confused in their thoughts and emotions, regardless of what they profess. So address symptoms as needed but keep directing them back to the truth that the root problem is their need and desire for intimate relationship God.

3.) Be Aware.

Christ is probably working on you, too. Are there certain issues about your own relationship with Him that He is bringing into the light through all this darkness? Could there be sin in your own life that you need to repent of? Are there wounds and fears you've never gone to The Great Physician for? Are you questioning if you really trust your beloved child in the hands of the Father? Are you still able to trust in His goodness and His plan for you and them? You are being held in the fire. Remember that the longer we are held in the fire the more dross comes out, and then, then, out comes the glorious material for the Silversmith.

4.) Remember.

Remember that you also need to stay focused on the truth about who Jesus is. This is the only thing that keeps any of us from sinking in the relentless waves. Set the example of faith in the trusting the Father with your child.

Remember they are not alone. Christ is the faithful Shepherd who seeks the wandering, lost lamb. Even if they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with them. Even if they make their bed in the depths, they cannot flee from His presence.

Remember He raises the dead. Don't be surprised at their lack of feeling and morality, their emotional and spiritual deadness. Being separated from Christ is to be disconnected from Life. There is no real life apart from Christ. I speak as one who literally invited--paid for--death to enter my body physically and spiritually when I had an abortion and killed my child. I walked away from that choice dead. But... He has called me out of death, and into life! He made me new. Alive with Christ.
None of the present things they are doing, nor anything that is to come, can separate them from the powerful, healing, redeeming love of Jesus. Not even death. 

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
~Romans 8:38-39

"Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith"
~Proverbs 25:4

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
~1 Timothy 1:15-17


Melissa said...

Thank you for posting this. So articulate on such a difficult issue. And although you didn't highlight it, I was grateful for the reminder "they are not alone." It is my impulse to fix fix fix, examining and dissecting the disease as though I am the doctor, dispassionate and lacking in the compassion and care required of a nurse. But that is not on me, God is the doctor and the father and he does not leave them alone, and we are called to love.

Leah said...

Hi Elise, thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving that sweet poem. I love that poem, always makes me tear up :) I just had to say hi again and also say thank you again for this post. My brother, who is my only sibiling, is very much living the prodigal life right now with his wife. It has caused SO much hurt and grief for all of us, but especially my parents. I am going to print this out for them to read and be encouraged by. So glad to get to know you a bit! Your daughter is beautiful....hugs.

Anonymous said...

When my Prodigal was away from home, the Lord, her family and her Christian friends, my heart was so broken, I didn't think I would ever recover. I remember sobbing into my pillow to keep the other kids from hearing the screams of agony.

A few years later, she was restored to the Lord, happily married and blessed with beautiful children. She is so beautifully healed and forgiven, I can hardly remember the pain we all went through.

At the time of her rebellion, I never believed the encouragement from older believers who said, "This too shall pass." But, it did pass. Your encouragement for parents in how to act in a spiritual way if you have a prodigal is very good and accurate.

I just wanted to pass on hope and encouragement as one who has walked through those flames, and like those in the fiery furnace, I was not alone, and neither was my daughter.

Thanks for the heartfelt post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. We are in the early days of Prodigal. My oldest has not left home yet, she is only 17. She is what everyone would call not just a good kid, but a great kid. She is the kid all the other parents want their kids to hang out with.
But I found her journal, she has been drinking and partying. I knew she was far from the Lord, deeply wounded by our youth pastor and his wife. What I was seeing was contempt towards her siblings. What I could not see, until her dad and I sat her down to confront the journal entries was her ability to lie so well. She had me completely snowed.
She has now begun to treat me with the same contempt she treats her siblings with. She can manipulate with the best of them. I know she works very hard to be the nicest kid you ever met...and that is a lot of work! Christ is at the outer edge of her life, not the center.
I adore her and I am so broken over it all. I have my list of scriptures to pray in a new way and yes, I can see my own sin in this as well.
I pray she comes back to Him before she is out on her own. I have about a year left with her under my roof before she leaves.
Thanks for the blog. My daughter's name is Liz. Join me in praying she comes home to Him before she leaves our home? Thanks.

Elise said...

Oh dear sister...

Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I'm honored. I WILL be praying for Liz.

As I was praying I initially had these thoughts... If I am off please forgive me and let them slide, but maybe these are from Him to you?

Be careful to not "label" her anything other than the names God gives her. Words are so powerful, and when we are upset(and righteously so!) our emotions can be deceptive, and our words can sling piercing death wounds into tender hearts that pretend like they're tough.

ex. "You are so selfish!!"

The seemingly small difference of "you are ACTING so selfish... that is NOT who you really are... you are so generous and kind and tenderhearted... maybe you're ACTING this way because?..." and " you ARE selfish" is HUGE .

I'm sure Liz has lots of ugly labels she's already self-imposing. It will help her come to you and your husband if she knows you don't label her that way... but that you think the BEST of her and love her anyway.

And "LIAR" was the last scarlet letter label to drop off of my spirit. And I had a lot. I was shamefully, ridiculously "good" at lying too. So I encourage you to speak direct truth to her. If she's lying... she'll begin(or already currently does) believe the lies she spins. She will become very, very confused in her mind and spirit even about simple things. So I encourage you to speak simple, direct truths like " I love you. I adore you. I know God has great plans for you. He has given you so many talents. He has given you such influence to be used for His glory and your joy." etc. Simple and direct are harder for the enemy to twist. And believe me, your enemy wants to wedge you ever-further away from your daughter.

I know this is not easy to do. But this practice will slay any pride and unforgiveness in you... it is extremely painful. Especially considering what many of your interactions may be like, saying such things may be completely out of the blue, and in the face of blatant disrespect and unloving behavior from her. But she needs to hear them. As often as you can squeeze them in.

Keep praying, keep leaning, keep listening to Him!

Praying for you sweet Sister!!


tricia sayre said...

I so needed to read this today! My oldest son, who will be 20 in 3 weeks, is a prodigal. He left a few months ago and this past year has been the saddest year of our family's life. We have shed more tears than we knew was humanly possible, struggled with paralyzing fear, clinging to God with every last bit of strength. I read your June response to an anonymous comment (who I could totally relate to) about speaking direct, simple truths and it spoke to me so profoundly. I just sent a text to him doing just that and plan to do that often to remind him of who he really is and in Whose image he was made in. Thank you so much for sharing what God has laid on your heart and for sharing your testimony!

Elise said...

Dear Tricia,

I got goosebumps when I read your comment "who he really is and in Whose image he was made"---AMEN!! I agree with you in your prayer that he will know in his core, in his spirit, in his mind that that is the beautiful truth. The Truth sets us free!!

Don't we ALL need this daily reminder? Who we really are? I certainly do, even now! Keep speaking those direct truths sweet sister!

Praying for you and your beloved son.


Karen Cox said...

Thank you for sharing your story for the enemy cannot deny the power of an overcoming testimony! I have recently published an e-book (365 Days of Prayers for Prodigals) which was taken from my personal journal. I came to a point of realizing there was nothing I could "do" but seek His truth about my child and stand on that truth. How right you are that this journey has been as much about my growth as it has been about my Prodigal. How grateful I am that He sees the end from the beginning and is not limited by this moment in my Prodigal's journey!

I have referenced your blog on my Facebook page...I hope that other Prodigal parents will be encouraged by your story!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm a pastor's wife with 5 children - 2 of them prodigals (Rob aged 30 and James aged 26 - both married to lovely young women who need the Lord). I'm so encouraged by your words. God bless you.

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