It’s easy to point fingers in abandonment and divorce, harder to see how the victim of divorce factors into things, and yet, we need to do so if we are going to move on. It is especially important if we are going to find healing and possibly open ourselves to another relationship. Using the characters in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son gives us one way to do so.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, two sons take very different paths. The first is an honorable son, helping his father whenever he can, increasing the home’s profitability and caring for his family. The second son seeks out his father, demands his inheritance, and proceeds to squander it all on sex, gambling, and “good” times, before hitting bottom and finding himself hungry and eking out a meager living tending swine. The realization causes him to return home, humbly seeking his father’s forgiveness and a position, not as a valued son since he knows he is unworthy of the title, but among the workers instead.
The father however, sees his son from a long way off and orders a great celebration to greet him, even killing the fatted calf to honor the sinful but contrite man. Understandably the first, honorable, hard working, loyal, faithful, good son is hurt and angered by this. The parable ends with the father reaching out to comfort the good son. Gospel of Luke 15:31-32
It’s easy to identify the runaway spouse as the runaway son in the parable, and I’ll get to that later this week, but it’s also important to see how we could be each character in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. This week join me in looking at the three main characters in this parable to see how they reflect the abandoned and divorced.
The Abandoned & Divorced as The Prodigal Son
Would you ever tell someone you wished he was dead? Would you ever approach a parent and demand gifts he or she had in store for your future be given immediately?
Of course not!
But…haven’t many of us done that already? We do it all the time and excuse it because times have changed or the Bible doesn’t really understand life today or something else.
Take for example the gift of sexuality and the command to not commit adultery. We think God didn’t really mean, you shall not commit adultery to mean…
That’s just too high a standard to follow. We are human after all, and sex is fun and feels good. It’s natural for crying out loud!
And so, many Catholics and Christians enter Marriage already having given their bodies away to their future spouses and often to others as well. The thrill of unwrapping the gift of a spouse’s body on the wedding night has been taken away. Yes, the wedding is still a wonderfully special thing, but imagine how intense it would be if this was the first time…
Instead of waiting though, we’ve essentially gone to the Father and said, “You’ve given me the gift of this body and sexuality. Now I demand to use it as I want immediately rather than wait for when you had planned.”
By engaging in premarital sex, we demand our inheritance before our Father says the time is right, before our gifts of self-confidence, trust, patience, maturity, and yes, even self-denial allow us to embrace our sexuality in all its glory.
Pre-marital sex also clouds wisdom, discernment, and judgment many might have used to end relationships rather than moving forward in them. Once your gift of sexuality has been given to another human being, you are joined in a way that makes it difficult, even before wedding vows have taken place, to separate. This is not a gift that is returnable or rewrapped to be re-gifted later.
Many critics claim there are too many annulments granted, especially in the United States, but, as I watched my ex marry his mistress, I wondered again if we hadn’t gotten it backwards. If there are actually too many invalid marriages taking place instead rather than too many annulments.
How many of the currently divorced moved forward in their relationship because it was more difficult not to or because they were at a “marrying age” and so the time was right even if the person wasn’t? How many of the divorced would have been better off waiting a few years to be Married to the one God intended for them, but demanded to use gifts ahead of time only to find themselves, sometimes decades later, hungry for more and tending swine?
Sexuality is just one area in which many Christian Catholics have sinned. Perhaps the greater sin lies in things which are less blatant but more damaging, affecting many areas of life. Engaging in premarital sex shows a self-centeredness in our inability to put the Word of God before our own desires and an ability to overlook or justify wrongdoings. This can be evidenced in other areas such as in our place of work, when dealing with difficult family members, or when gossiping about a friend’s crisis.
The Return of the Prodigal Son
The best thing about divorce though, even in the cases of those abandoned against their will, is that many will finally choose clarity over confusion. The confusion of values of our early lives is left behind when we face divorce and choose to turn to the Lord for healing and strength.
Over the years, I have corresponded with many inspirational Catholic Christians who have taken stock of their past sins and faults and worked hard to overcome them. These inspirational people now vow to take each day as it comes, enjoying the gift of presence rather than demanding the gift of future. They selflessly work hard at their jobs and to provide love, support, and stability for their children.
They have increased their devotion and worship to the Lord, many participating in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, aligning their pain to that Jesus suffered on his way to Calvary and spending time in silence at Adoration, answering Jesus’ request to sit with Him for an hour as He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. They have learned what it means to call out to God day in and day out, answering the demand to pray without ceasing, and, though they will bear permanent scars, many of the divorced have found it is truly possible to experience Joy in every circumstance!
Many of the divorced will turn away from the Lord, refusing to see how they demanded their inheritance before the time was right. Many will refuse to admit they squandered their gifts away and blame the hunger they feel on anything but themselves. Many will unknowingly continue to work with swine resulting in the high rate of divorce in subsequent marriages.
But many still will become the Prodigal Son. They will understand the wrong they did and humbly seek forgiveness and a return to their Father.
They will value gifts given to them and patiently wait for the Lord to decide when to open gifts. They will no longer cower in defeat or desperation, clinging to whatever kind word is tossed their way and giving themselves to others with limited understanding, but will boldly and gently proceed in Love.
And the Father will be out seeking their return, waiting just over the horizon until they make the trek back over long journeys and rough terrain. The Father will prepare a celebration in Heaven unlike any we know here on earth as we return to Him.
And He will be ready with a Loving embrace when we humbly ask His forgiveness and seek His shelter.
Choose to be the prodigal son. Pull yourself away from swine and doubt. Return to the Father and be filled with His Love. Let your Father fill you with His Love and acceptance when you are hungry. The choice is yours. Embrace your role as the Prodigal Son and know you are welcomed into your Father’s house because you are worthy of being the child of a King.
*There is so much to this Gospel and this parable in particular! Read my other posts:
I hope you join me!
And, as always, thanks for commenting, liking, following, and sharing!
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