I am the prodigal son. Or daughter, I guess. For those of you who don't know the story, it's a parable in the Bible, found in Luke 15. Here's a quick synopsis:
A man had two sons. The younger asked his dad if he could have his inheritance now rather than later (the older son would get the land/home, the younger would inherit just a small amount of money compared to the older—that was Jewish tradition at the time). The father said okay, and the younger son basically ran off and squandered all his money on partying and prostitutes (see, the Bible has some serious DRAMA, huh?!). He was gone a long time, and after a while his father thought he must be dead.
After the son had "wasted his substance with riotous living," the place he lived (which I envision as the modern-day Vegas) was hit with famine, and he began to starve. He was basically homeless and hungry and sleeping with the pigs. Then one day it hit him that he could return home and, though he could no longer be a family member because he had disgraced his family, he could perhaps become a hired hand so he could eat.
He returned home, and Luke 15:20 tells us that "when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him." Although the son told his father how he had squandered everything and sinned against heaven and was no longer worthy, the father loved his son, forgave him, and welcomed him back home into the family with open arms. He threw a big party to celebrate, and the rest was history.
The older son was a bit jealous, since he'd been faithful and "worthy," staying home to take care of pops and the farm and all (again... this is a brief summary and extremely paraphrased).
I, too, had a time in my life when I strayed from my heavenly Father. I didn't go to Vegas or blow money on strippers or anything like that, but through my teenage years and early adulthood, I was an angry, resentful, hurt girl who felt like her life had been ripped from her, and I was angry with God. I was so angry, in fact, that I willfully and purposely lived in direct opposition to scripture. I'll spare you the details, but I was astray. I was saved; I'd given my life to Him at a young age. I was born again. But—I. Was. MAD. I went on living life angry and rebellious until I was about 22 years old, and had traces of it left in my system for about another 2-3 years after that. (And let's face it: we all will have it in our systems until we get to the other side of eternity.)
Yet, God never forsook me. He didn't turn from me; He didn't even admonish me. When I hit a wall and decided to surrender and finally come home (to Him), He had compassion for me. He loved me through it, and when I came back, I believe He rejoiced just as the father in this parable that He authored.
This is a story of grace, but grace was not extended ONLY to the prodigal son—because grace is for everyone who will accept it. The other part of the story involves the older brother who basically threw a fit that "it's not fair!" because he had stayed home and been responsible while the younger brother was out partying it up and trashing his body and the family name. He was mad that Dad had never thrown a party for him.
Rather than chastising the son for being jealous, saying he's being silly, or telling him not to be so selfish, the father said, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." Then he continued, "It was meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." You see, the father could have furrowed his brow at the older son and told him to cool it, but instead he offered words of affirmation and assurance: Thou art ever with me. All that I have is thine.
And this is the lesson for me as a parent, as well. I've said so many times that I wish there was a handbook for parenting. Here it is, folks. This is the handbook. GRACE for your children. GRACE for my children. My babies. There are times when discipline and admonition are practical and necessary—for instruction. But I've often struggled as a parent, even with girls so young, to have an attitude of compassion and grace. At this stage it applies more to my older one since Sierra, just barely 1 year old, hasn't had a chance to "transgress" against anyone yet; but the time will surely come.
I want my relationship with my children to be a reflection of my relationship with my heavenly Father. If I want my children to know the Lord, I need to show them who He is. Not only is it important to have grace and compassion when my children have sinned, but also to have words of affirmation and assurance when they are insecure. So many times, just in the four short years since Sophia was born, I have missed the mark. I've scolded her when she's been jealous of my affection toward Sierra. I've been frustrated when I just barely got Sierra down for her nap, and out of desire for attention, Sophia made noise that woke her. Even when I tried not to let my irritation show, I have failed to have an attitude of grace.
I will never be able to love my children like God loves them, nor am I capable of the grace He has bestowed on me. But this parable offers a perfect instruction on and example of how to give my girls a glimpse of Jesus.