Abandonment, Divorce, & Your Role as Parent in the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Abandonment, Divorce, Sad, Old Single Parent - Prodigal SonA divorced single parent faces difficulties married families can’t begin to imagine when raising children. Not only is the single parent responsible for food, shelter, clothing, and protection, but she must also provide a positive role model, live her faith out loud, and know when to be quiet.

And she must do this all without a partner to back her up when things go wrong. There is never a time when she can say,  “Hey honey, is it bad enough that we should bring him to the doctor?” or “I’m too tired. Ask Dad when he comes out of the bathroom.”

Every decision big and small must be made alone. Doubts must be pushed through, and small victories are celebrated quietly, often after the kids leave for the weekend and mom can finally reflect on the whirl of the week that just passed.

Without a doubt, the hardest moments of single parenting come from those times children are wounded by words, thoughts, and actions we have no control over. It’s worst when they’ve been gone and come home angry, fighting, yelling, or worse, silent, and we wonder what happened but know we can’t ask too much.

The next hardest moments of single parenting are those when we argue with our children as all parents and children do from time to time. It’s those moments when kids hurl cutting words that makes the parent faithful, loving single parents envious of the deserting parent and want to run away.

It’s those moments when you’re tempted to hurl words back at your kids, “You think you’d be happier living with dad? Then go!” or “Do you know all I do for you? What’s wrong with you???” or to turn a cold shoulder on a child, giving him or her the silent treatment and harboring a grudge.

There are also the moments when you’ve moved beyond anger to deflated defeat. The temptation then is to simply give in to a child whether he is six and wants to watch an inappropriate movie or she is 16 and wants to go to a party you disapprove of.

When you’re exhausted from running all the time, when you’re stressed over finances and time management, organization, and your career, when you’re trying your best and feeling just not good enough, it’s so easy to want to sink to these levels, but we can’t. As the honorable parent, it is even more imperative that we hold ourselves to a higher standard.

You as the Single Parent in the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Did you ever notice how many broken families there are in the Bible? I’ll get into that another time. I don’t know if the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son was a single parent or if his wife was busy elsewhere.

Personally, I’d rather believe she was so valued by her husband that he gave her time to herself to go out with girlfriends on occasion, to get her hair and nails done and be pampered every so often, and to just be alone to sit and read a book quietly some days. Remember what it was like to sit a read a book without interruption? I’m not sure I do! 🙂

Whatever the case, there is no evidence of a mother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We know men have more influence over other men than women do. We know the truth behind the expression, “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you your future.” We know boys want to be more like their fathers than their mothers. We know the need for strong, faith-filled male role models in lives of our children.

We also know how hard it is to be the parent of the opposite sex child who thinks we know nothing and who certainly cannot talk to us about issues of most concern – drinking, drugs, porn, and sex.

I’d like to think the mom in the Parable of the Prodigal Son was off having “Me Time” and that she and her husband had such a close, trusting relationship that she had confidence in his handling of their sons best, but I sometimes wonder if the mom was off on the sidelines weeping silently, hiding her feeling of being rejected by her children, sorrowful about being left out of important events and decisions, understanding but still hurt that her precious boys turn to their father dismissing their mother’s advice and modeling.

Frequently in the Bible we see one parent having influence for good or bad over their children. The best we can do is be that parent who has the good influence. For that, we can turn to the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

You as the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Of the three visible main characters in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father gets the least stage time, but he must have had incredible influence. Imagine how his heart must have hurt when his son first approached asking for his inheritance basically telling the father he was in the way, a nuisance, he wished him dead.

“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.

What happened between when the son asked for his inheritance and the son actually left? The Bible tells us a few days passed between. Imagine the tension, anger, hostility, fear…The father must have been hurt. He was being rejected, abandoned, essentially divorced by his child, and yet, he says little.

How would you have reacted? I’m pretty sure I would have wanted to scream and yell, to stamp my feet, clench my fists, and want to throw something. I’m guessing that would be the human reaction and what the father wanted to do too, but I’m also guessing he didn’t.

When people act badly in the Bible, we know it. God shows us. The father has no action here, and it’s that very inaction that we can learn from. He must have been deeply hurt by his son, but the man remains calm. He doesn’t say anything but, understanding the power of words, bites his tongue. He must have tried to talk to his son, but he doesn’t push the subject enough to make it noteworthy.

How many times have we been in a tight situation with our children and pushed the subject? What were the results? Short term, we may get our way, but we want the best outcome longterm. The father drew from the command to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Imagine the father’s pain as days passed and his son said his good-byes, packed up his things, and bragged about his grandiose plans. Imagine the strength it took to be silent. Imagine the role model this man provided and the image his son carried in his mind as he walked off. The last picture he would have had of his father would be one of sadness perhaps, but of a solid foundation, an unshakable rock even amidst tumult, someone who would be there when most needed.

When the prodigal son returns, his father does not dwell on his failures but runs to him. He does not lecture him or question him, but he also does not accept him back to continue his sinful ways. He is sure the son is contrite and humble and able to live under his roof in the manner God dictates. No endless lecture is given. No accusations are cast. No grudge is held.

The father welcomes his sinful son in with loving forgiveness

– as we are welcomed by our father.

The Father & the Good Son

The Parable of the Prodigal Son ends with the older son’s justifiable resentment of his younger brother’s treatment.

He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’

It would be easy for the father to get mad at this son for not rejoicing in his brother’s return, to point out his jealousy, to yell at this son or lecture him endlessly, to ignore the son and leaving him to be sullen outside the celebration, or to give in and agree that the good son is right, that he had made a mistake and should have given him the fatted calf, but this is not what the father does.

The father leaves the celebration to go to his hurting son. He pleads with him but again remains calm even in the face of his son’s anger.

He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”

Instead of acting as a stressed single parent, tired of his sons’ battles, the father offers his son love, reassuring him that he will always be there for him, “My son, I am with you always; everything I have is yours.” The father invites the son to join in the festivities and to understand the rebirth of his younger brother, and he leaves it there for the son to think about.

Single Parenting Ain’t an Easy Calling

We were never meant to carry the burden or Joy of parenting alone, but many do. When confronted with our children’s decisions, we often feel alone, afraid, exhausted, and inept causing us to lash out and risk damaging our relationships and our self-esteem.

There is hope in the role models offered by Jesus. From the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we learn patience even when our children tell us they wish we were dead and run off. We learn to quietly be still, to look to the long term, to praying for forgiveness, humility, and strength to return to the Father, and we learn to react in Love, offering them all we have, letting them know we will be with them always.

Next time your children drive you crazy, as children often do, next time you are hurt and rejected, decide whether now is the time to argue your case or to be the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Whatever you decide, turn to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help you offer quiet prayer, attain strength to be there when they need you, and the gift of unconditional, all forgiving Love.

It may take time, but nothing beats the bond of parent and child. Hold onto that hope.

*There is so much to this Gospel and this parable in particular! Read my other posts: 

I hope you join me!

God Bless…

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