Posts tagged prodigal child

Can you be proud of a prodigal?



One of the hardest things a father can face is when his child walks away from the family or the faith. But in the midst of helplessness, there is hope. This post is from the Help for Hurting Parents email list, and originally appeared on Proud of a Prodigal? – James Banks.com. Encouraging Prayer site. 

ProdigalCan you be proud of a prodigal?

That depends, doesn’t it? Your son or daughter has made some choices you know you’re not proud of. But what about when they make the right ones?

When you’re the parent of a prodigal you learn to look at life a little differently. Cari and I have a phrase we use frequently. When we’ve made it through 24 hours without a “prodigal incident” and our children have made good choices, one of us inevitably says, “Today was a good day.” Parenting a prodigal makes you grateful for small victories. And sometimes victories that may not seem like much can be large indeed.

Recently our son celebrated his 21st birthday substance-free. That’s an accomplishment for anyone in a culture that practically programs kids to abuse the moment their odometer clicks. But for someone who’s struggled with substance abuse, it’s huge.

We were out to dinner when the waitress discovered it was “his day.”

“You should drink!” she urged through a thick Ukrainian accent. Our son just smiled.

“I’ve done enough of that in my life already,” he responded.  “Besides, I get too crazy when I drink.”

As his Dad, I can’t tell you how much those words meant to me. If you had been living in our home over the years you’d understand. Think of it like this. Imagine watching your son run a big race. You see him stumble and fall out of the blocks while other runners leave him behind. Then somehow (by some kind of miracle), he rises to his feet, shakes off the fall, hits his stride, and breaks the tape.

You’d cherish that moment, wouldn’t you? You’d replay it in your mind again and again.  It’s more than just a “that’s my boy!” moment. It’s a fall-to-your-knees-and-thank-God moment you’ll remember as long as you live.

Some months before his birthday I told my son, “When you turn 21, why be like everyone else? Why don’t you do something different, and go without substances?” And he did. He made it a milestone, and I couldn’t be prouder of him for it. Not with the stuffed-shirt, pat-yourself-on-the-back-because-your-kid-made-you-look-good kind of pride, but with the healthy God-given satisfaction that looks on an achievement and lovingly sees that it is “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” has a moment where a mother defends her love for her prodigal son to his sister who hates him for his mistakes:

“Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning—because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ’cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right child, measure him right. Make sure you done take into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”

Your prodigal child may have chosen “hills and valleys” of his own free will. He may still be in a “far country” (Luke 15:13) and have a long way to go. But when he starts to come “to his senses” (Luke 15:17) and turn toward the Father’s house, it is a “very good” day indeed. Every step in the right direction is cause to praise “the tender mercy of our God,” who daily guides “our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

© James Banks. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Can you be proud of a prodigal?” by guest blogger James Banks on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead Dennis Rainey’s article, “Loving the Prodigal Child.”

 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Leslie Barner’s personal article.
“When Things Fall Apart: Seven Promises for Brokenhearted Parents.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSubscribe to the Help for Hurting Parents blog feed. Talk together and pray together as a couple through the issues.

A grandfather’s legacy



I never met my grandfather because he died before I was born.  But his legacy and influence live on because he took the time to write down a blessing to my father in the form of words of advice. This blessing has been passed through my father to me and is now passing on to my sons.

Bible

My grandfather was an amazing man.  He grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, attended the University of Arkansas receiving his law degree while participating in cheerleading for the Arkansas Razorbacks.  After college and law school, he moved to Texas to practice law.  When World War II broke out, he gave up his practice and joined the Army, where he served as chief of staff for then General Eisenhower. After the war, he returned home, became the district attorney in Fort Worth, Texas, and later became a judge.

My dad and his dad didn’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, as Dad was a free and rebellious spirit.  From what I can tell, they had an explosive relationship: the judge and the juvenile delinquent.  It came to a head when my father announced he was going to drop out of high school to pursue a career as a rock and roll drummer.  I understand the argument was ugly; the words from both sides were hurtful and it ended with my grandfather yelling out to my dad as he left, “Son, if you drop out of high school it will kill me.” Dad slammed the door as he left, did what he felt he needed to do, and dropped out of school. When he returned home for lunch, an ambulance was in the driveway and my grandfather was dead from a heart attack.

Dad went on to pursue his rock and roll career, playing drums for stars like Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and many others throughout the late 50s and early 60s. But, the pain of the broken relationship with his dad haunted him and he became an alcoholic.

He drifted from relationship to relationship with women. Everywhere he went he seemed to hurt those he loved.  This all came home to me when I was 12 years old and learned that Dad had been arrested and charged with murder for hire.  For the next two years, when I wanted to see him I had to do so by going through numerous heavy metal doors with bars to get to the maximum security section of the Tarrant County Jail during his trial.  I have vivid memories of those Saturday morning visitations.  I had to talk to my Dad standing on my tippy toes looking through a 4×7 metal grate built into the door of my Dad’s 4×8 cell.

When he was convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair I thought I had lost him.  My visits were now held at the Ellis Unit which is the Maximum Security Prison that houses death row for the State of Texas.  At least I could see him through a larger metal grate but there was still no physical  contact.  I really thought I had lost my dad and never knew which visit would be the last.  I had to endure two last-minute stays of execution not knowing if my Dad had been electrocuted or not.

However, shortly after I turned 15, I was surprised to find out that my father’s conviction was overturned and that he would go down in history as the only man to ever walk off of death row as a free man in Texas.  I got my father back, and had a second shot at having a real father-son relationship.

Over the years we did develop a close relationship.  My dad made a lot of mistakes during his life, but the one thing he did right was to make sure that I knew he loved me and was very proud of me. Everywhere I went people would say, “You’re Chip’s son! Your dad is always bragging on you.”  Those words mean a lot to a young boy, and helped my self-esteem as a man.

By the time Dad passed away about 11 years ago, he had been married 15 times to 13 different women. I am, amazingly, the only child he had.  As I was going through his stuff after he died, I ran across an old Bible and in it I found these words written from my grandfather to my father:

To my son Chip, from his dad – with these words of advice:

1. Fear God

2. Be right and fear no man

3. Love the truth and hate a lie

4. Tell the truth regardless of the consequences

5. A thief and a liar are the same, trust neither

6. Once confidence is established, be loyal

7. Be energetic and hunger for knowledge

8. Have compassion for the unfortunate

9. Be prudent but not prideful

10. Always love your mother

11. Build character and respect for your word

12. Try to see all sides and then decide

13. When in doubt do nothing

14. Be tolerant  Be kind

15. Be a square shooter and a good loser

With love for your first birthday,
Dad

Some of these things I remember my father saying to me, some were new.  My boys often hear me quote these same pieces of advice to them.

My grandfather’s legacy is still alive in spite of being tested by a prodigal son because he took the time to write down the values that were important to him.  These words are now being passed from generation to generation and I pray they will be defining characteristics of what it means to be a Whitmore.

What defines your family?  What words of advice and encouragement do you need to pass to the next generation?

 

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