A prodigal is someone who voluntarily and intentionally disengages significant relationships to pursue reckless behaviors.
Jesus told a story about a prodigal in Luke 15:11-32. We are all prodigals to some degree. While some focus on the son who runs and others a son who stays, I think dad is the most significant character in the story. There’s much to be learned from the father’s actions.
I have given advice on a number of occasions and this I know about loving the prodigal:
You must let them go in order to get them back. You can’t hold onto someone who doesn’t want to be held. To refuse release will only complicate the frustration and compound the rebellion. You must let go in order to see them voluntarily return one day.
Give them what is rightfully theirs for the journey. Release them with whatever belongs to them. While resources may be squandered, the possessions will remind them of home.
Don’t run after them; a prodigal must journey beyond your reach. You can’t chase the prodigal. The more you run after them, the further they run from you. Keep the communication lines open, but don’t smother or continually initiate the conversation. They know where you are and one day will find you again.
Trust God for protection, care and brokenness. You can’t protect the prodigal. Letting go means you must trust; you are powerless. Entrust the one you love into God’s hands. He’ll protect and care for them. Trust God for the brokenness which will gently lead them home.
Remain constant and continue living life. Keep living life and demonstrate the gospel. Love, care, serve and give where you live. Continue living faithfully. Don’t put life on pause, but live the new normal well in light of the absence. Find joy in His presence daily and lament not what’s missing.
Never lose compassion for your prodigal. You must love the one that chose to leave. Don’t allow anger, bitterness or resentfulness to steal your compassion. You don’t get even with a prodigal, but love them instead. You’ll embrace again.
Glance toward for the horizon. Don’t lose hope. Look toward the horizon occasionally. One day, there’ll be a figure on the horizon journeying back home.
These I’ve learned from Jesus. To the parent of the prodigal, live well through the journey. What you do and how you live will make a difference. And, last but not least, pray. Never stop praying.