Scripture: Luke 15:11-31
A house is built by hands, but a home is built by hearts.
What was it really, that brought the prodigal home? How do I make my home an easy place to come back to?
As parents we need to create a context in which our children learn to hear the voice of God and respond to Him.
Rules for Parents
One of my more effective parental strategies is to make Lists of Rules to be Obeyed And I Really Mean it This Time, and post these articles on the refrigerator in the kitchen so my children will have a written record of what they are ignoring. Over time, these rules have progressed from the simple "Wipe your Feet!" to the more complex "Would you please clean up your makeup it looks like the FBI has been dusting for fingerprints."
"WE should make a list of rules for YOU," my older daughter raved when I pointed out she was in violation of Rule Number 412, "Stop Sitting So Close to Your Boyfriend on the Couch It's Time for Him to Go Home Anyway." Having more than one teenage daughter under roof, I can just guess what these rules would be:
Ten Teenager Rules for Parents
Rule One: When you are dropping me off at the mall, please keep your face averted so that none of my friends will see you. I will leave the car without a word, sullenly slamming the door as if I'm furious at you for doing me such a favor. Do not roll down the window and say anything pleasant to me as I stomp off, as this will spoil the mood.
Rule Two: I don't care who owns the house, my bedroom is my property and you are barred from entering without invitation. If I'm gone and all the lights are on and the stereo is blaring, you'll just have to live with it. And if it upsets you so much to look under my bed, don't.
Rule Three: It is ridiculous for you to answer the telephone when you know it is going to be for me. And no, you may not, EVER, ask who is calling. It embarrasses me for my friends to hear your voice. And if you don't like the way I take messages, stop having people call you at home.
Rule Four: By now you know you need to leave enough time to stop for gas when you take the car somewhere. I'm 'way too busy to fill the tank myself, and anyway I had to spend the gas money you gave me to buy lunch. If it's such a big deal to you, maybe you should get me my own car.
Rule Five: Okay, I KNOW you also gave me lunch money. I spent it at the movies. Stop poking your nose into my personal finances.
Rule Six: I am not cold and do not need to "cover up." How would you know what is "appropriate dress?" You don't even know where I'm going!
Rule Seven: Since the only reason you give me a curfew is so YOU can go to sleep, curfew is hereby rescinded. And you may never again ask me "Do you know what time it is?" when I come home. If I wanted to know what time it was I would wear a watch. If you think it is so late, maybe you should be asleep instead of pacing around in the living room.
Rule Eight: Would you STOP telling me "what boys want?" How would you know, anyway? Things were completely different when you were a teenager. Quit spying out the window when we pull in the driveway. And stop asking my boyfriend if he's sure his tattoo is okay with his "parole officer;" it wasn't funny the first time.
Rule Nine: Weekends and vacations are my time OFF. It really ruins my mood when you give me these lists of chores.
Rule Ten: Can you drive me to the mall? And I need some money.
Of course, if my teenagers ever post these rules, I know just how to react. First, I will scream that none of my friends have these stupid rules. Then I'll yell that they are "ruining my life" and run to my room and slam the door. Once there I will turn up my stereo until all the windows in the house are rattling. Then I will sullenly stomp out of the house and sit on the porch, where everyone can see me pout.
I can't wait.
An Open Door Policy - Leaving
I believe that one of the key factors that came into play when the Prodigal reached the end of his resource is that his father had the grace to let his son leave easily.
If you love something
If you love something, set it free.
If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours.
If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.
If it just sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, uses your telephone, takes your money, and never behaves as if you actually set it free in the first place. . . You either married it or gave birth to it.
The way that we leave home determines the way that we return. I think that most of us could enjoy better days if we established sacred times when we refused to fight. You can make that decision you know. You can mutually decide that there will be certain times when you will not engage in disagreement with each other.
Some of those key times are:
When you leave home in the morning
When you arrive home in the evening
When you say goodnight before sleep
When you first wake in the morning
There are times when we fight over insignificant things, insisting on winning in areas that make no difference. The problem is that when we come to the things that matter we risk losing with each other or with our children because they are tired of losing.
We are not told in scripture what precipitated the younger son’s desire to leave home. The bottom line is that this is what he wanted. You may arrive at this point somewhere along the line with your own children. It is the most natural thing in the world for children to move on. Some accelerate the process and others prolong it. When the time comes for the relationship to change, we need to have the wisdom to let it run it’s course without struggle. When we fight the natural desire to “move farther away” from us then we somehow take something from the relationship that we have with our kids. Then there are other times when parents may need to be the instigators. The nest can become overly comfortable and preferable to accepting responsibility and “getting on with life”. Conflicts inevitably arise when you have older children living in your home who want to set their own parameters and live independently or your “way of doing things”. If things continue too long in this condition then what was once a nurturing relationship begins to erode and undo the good that once was done.
Some Noteworthy Observations
q The son in some ways was declaring his Father to be dead. He was really choosing to cut all ties with his father. A complete severance package.
q The Father was under no obligation to give his son anything at that point. He chose to give him his inheritance prematurely. The older son was entitled to 2/3rds of the worth of his father and the younger son was entitled to 1/3rd.
q There is no indication that the leaving was at all a negative experience relative to the relationship that he had with his Father.
q Lack of funds would have kept him home.
What makes it difficult for us to let our children go?
q The plans that we have for our children. So many parents are intensely committed to making their children’s futures brighter according to their own definition.
q The preoccupation that we have with our own reputation. Children know when we make decisions based on the way that we look to others. There is nothing that frustrates them more. It happens all the time to preachers kids.
q Protection. We naturally want to spare our children pain and most of the time, the pain that we have experienced ourselves. We are most protective in the areas where we have made mistakes ourselves because we know how much we have been hurt or handicapped by our own mistakes. Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
A Flawless Teacher – Learning
There are times as parents that the best thing that we can do is to turn them over to the flawless teacher. The teacher’s name is Life and Consequence is the lesson plan.
A Better Offer – Longing
Home was a better place.
What brought him to this conclusion?
q His own sense of need
q No one cared about him. He held no favored position
q Time to think
q The way his father treated others. He remembered that his Father was a man who treated his laborers better than the man that he was hired out to. The way that we treat others is an influential factor when it came to the prodigal‘s return. He knew how his father treated others that were not necessarily special.
Children Learn What They Live
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty,they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. – 1972
Eating Crow, Made Easy -
WHICH HOUSE DO YOU LIVE IN??
- Author unknown
"I got two A's," the small boy cried.
His voice was filled with glee.
His father very bluntly asked,
"Why didn't you get three?"
"Mom. I've got the dishes done!"
The girl called from the door.
Her mother very calmly said,
"And did you sweep the floor?"
"I've mowed the grass," the tall boy said,
"And put the mower away!"
His father asked him, with a shrug.
"Did you clean off the clay?"
The children in the house next door
Seem happy and content.
The same things happened over there,
But this is how it went:
"I got two A's," the small boy cried,
His voice was filled with glee.
His father proudly said, "That's great!
I'm glad you live with me!"
"Mom I've got the dishes done!
The girl called from the door.
Her mother smiled and softly said.
"Each day I love you more."
"I've mowed the grass." the tall boy said.
"And put the mower away!"
His father answered with much joy.
"You've made my happy day!
WHEN CHILDREN LEARN
When children learn that happiness is not found in what a person has but in who that person is,
When they learn that giving and forgiving are more rewarding than taking and avenging,
When they learn that suffering is not eased by self-pity, but overcome by inner resolve and spiritual strength,
When they learn that they can't control the world around them, that they are the masters of their own soul, When they learn that relationships will prosper if they value friendship over ego, compromise over pride, and listening over advising,
When they learn not to hate a person whose difference they fear, but to fear that kind of hate,
When they learn that there is pleasure in the power of lifting others up, not in the pseudo power of pushing them down,
When they learn that praise from others is flattering but meaningless if it not matched by self-respect,
When they learn that the value of a life is best measured not by the years spent accumulating possessions, but by the moments spent giving of one's self-sharing wisdom, inspiring hope, wiping tears, and touching hearts,
When they learn that a person's beauty is seen not with eyes but with the heart; and that even though time and hardships may ravage one's outer shell, they can enhance one's character and
When they learn to withhold judgment of people, knowing everyone is blessed with good and bad qualities, and the emergence of either often depends on the help given or hurt inflicted by others,
When they learn that every person has been given the gift of a unique self, and purpose of life is to share the very best of that gift with the world,
When children learn these ideals and how to practice them in the art of good living, they will no longer be children - they will be blessings to those who know them, and worthy models of the world.
David L. Weatherford