Luke 15:11-14 (CEV)
11 Jesus also told them another story:
Once a man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, “Give me my share of the property.” So the father divided his property between his two sons.
13 Not long after that, the younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 He had spent everything, when a bad famine spread through that whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat.
Lost and Found … Part 2
Have you ever lost a child?
We use the word ‘lost’ in the English language to describe many different types of loss.
We lost a child in the woods one day when we went snowshoeing up at Snow Valley, and it took a terrifying half an hour to find them again.
We lost a child into the depths of autism for a number of years, making it very difficult to communicate or connect or interact with them.
We lost a child to a chromosomal abnormality 15 years ago when he was just a baby.
And we were pretty sure for a while that we had lost our child for good when they became suicidal and pulled back into deep depression and mental illness.
In most of these cases I could physically point to where my children were, but in this story that Jesus is telling us (and many people’s stories) the father doesn’t even get to know that much.
It’s terrifying as a parent when your child disappears – even when they’re still in the house – even when they’ve grown up. To not know where they are – to not be able to connect – to not know if they are okay – is a horrendous feeling! It brings up feelings of guilt and shame, “what did I do wrong?” It brings up feelings of anger and rage, “I’ll kill them when they get home!” It causes us to feel rejection and betrayal, “do they not appreciate everything that I’ve done for them???” It causes us to look at other parents who are getting frustrated at their kids and want to shake them into appreciating the gift they’ve been given.
Now can you imagine if that child had come to you and asked you for half the value of all of your assets – declared that the only way you could do something for them was to be dead so that they could take their inheritance and take off for a place as far away from you and your way of life and your values and your convictions as was humanly possible?
This might be close to the ultimate rejection.
So I want you to imagine that this father is you for a moment.
How long do you think the tension has been building in your home?
How long have you been dealing with these miserable sulks and storming rages?
Before you felt pretty rejected by your child. Now you’ve been completely rejected.
What did it feel like to be asked for half of your assets from your child?
What possessed you to give your child half of your assets?
Did you watch your child storm off in front of the whole family one morning, laden down with all their things? Or did they sneak out in the middle of the night one night, so that you were the only one who witnessed their leaving?
In a world without “Phone TrackerTM” do you know where your child went? Did they tell you? Did they hint at it? Did you send someone to follow them and send reports back to you? Or are you left completely in the dark?
How much of you wanted to go after your child when they left, and how much of you was honestly relieved (at least for a few moments) to see them go?
We’ve got a preview on what happens next. The son goes off as far away from his father as he can think and is as reckless with what he’s been given as you can imagine. Not only does he flaunt and waste his (father’s) money instead of investing it in a future for himself, he does so as far away from his Jewish roots (a foreign country) and Jewish values (wild living) as possible.
But the father doesn’t (necessarily) know that.
All the father knows at this moment in the story is that his son is lost, and he’s been rejected.
And so, as a parent who has lost children in many different ways I’m pretty confident I know how this father feels. I’m pretty confident that he’s left grieving. It might or might not have been a shock. He might wake up in the morning hoping against hope that it was all a bad dream. He might make up stories about how his son will be in from the fields at dinnertime. He might get angry or short-tempered at those around him – or even at his son! He might spend hours a day praying, or offering sacrifices or trying to do or say whatever it is he can think of in case it will bring his son back.
This is the nature of loss. When we love someone and they disappear we grieve.Journal Questions:
- Have you ever lost a child?
- Have you ever gotten lost as a child?
- Have you ever run away?
- What does it feel like to sit with this first part of this story?
- What does Jesus want to tell you about this first part of the story?