I thought I’d raised my kids the right way. “The prodigal son returns home” was never a phrase that I envisioned would be associated with one of my sons.
Of my six kids, five have yet to leave the nest. My oldest son moved out when he was 18. I envisioned great things for him. I raised him the best I could. I told him I loved him all the time. I hugged my boy practically every day of his life.
Amongst the slathering of love, I also disciplined him and taught him to behave and to be kind and respectful. He knew the rules and he obeyed them.
My hard work paid off. He had good table manners. He never got into trouble in school. He sat still in church. He never snuck out or stole. The few times he required serious discipline, he came to me and apologized for his behavior. He was a good kid who grew into a fine young man.
When he left home two years ago, I felt confident that he would do just as well on his own, beyond the range of my watchful eye, but it wasn’t long after he left that I learned that raising him “the best I could” wasn’t a promise that things would always turn out the way I imagined.
As I sit here today, I am less than a week away from moving my son back home. He went out into the world with all the promise of a bright future and ended up with the pigs like a certain bible character of whom I’ve grown weary of being reminded.
I told him that when he finally grew tired of the life he was living and when he was ready to come back to the Lord, that we’d be waiting at the end of the lane to welcome him home just like that other guy who was last seen dining with swine.
In the last message I sent him, I told him that I’d raised him to be obedient and to follow the rules. He held up well under my list of commandments. I told him that I had spent his life teaching him the law, but would he come home now and let me show him grace?
When I was raising my kids, I didn’t understand fully about the grace of God (though I should have, as much as I’d been its ungrateful recipient) and I passed on my weak understanding to my kids. Without a grasp on the amazing grace of God, I can understand now how I set my son up for a fall.
I didn’t teach my kids to love God; I taught them to obey Him.
But now I understand why people choose to leave everything to follow Him. I get why people give their lives for Him. I see firsthand why people love Him.
Now I’ve been given a second chance to teach my son about God’s grace. In life one rarely gets a do-over, and while I can’t go back and fix history, I do get the chance to fill in the gaping holes in my son’s theology that I left open and vulnerable to doubt and lies.
I’m starting school here at home in a couple of weeks for my younger kids. Maybe my oldest son won’t be cracking open the math books with us, but he’s still going to get some schooling from his ol’ ma. Not the finger-waving, heavy-handed kind of lessons, though. They’ll be the kind of lessons that begin with the words,
“Come unto me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”