This blog moved me as I’ve been the parent of a prodigal son who has finally been returned to the family, although not physically. I’m excited to be planning a trip to visit him next month, for the first time in over seven years. I’m also adding at the end of this reblog, my own version of the prodigal son story that I wrote in 2001, during my time as the editor of Esprit magazine. I hope it will be an encouragement to others as Sammy’s post was to me. Gayle Moore-Morrans<!
From the Editor
A Tale of Grace
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is a word that is central to our Christian faith and especially dear to those of us who, like Martin Luther, cling to “grace alone.” The grace of God abounds in God’s promise of unconditional love. Grace is evident in the stories of God’s people as they struggle with the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary happenings of daily life—in our relationships, contentions with evil influences and in our striving to live godly lives. Let me relate one such grace-filled tale.
There was a mother who had a daughter and a son. The father had died after a long, debilitating illness that caused tremendous strains on the family. The mother and daughter were blessed with strength they hadn’t even been aware they had—strength to deal with the grief and despair facing the family. Alas, the son was not able to call on those strengths. He lost his pleasant demeanor and easy laugh, his joy of living. God seemed totally distant to him and not able to help. The son began to act out at home and school—dropping out or running away from responsibilities, commitments and relationships. He alienated teachers, authorities and finally the family itself. Beginning to associate with others who were estranged from society, he soon was into the drug scene. He sold, pawned and traded his own and family members’ possessions to support his habit. Whether the cause of, or a consequence of drug abuse, a severe depression overcame the son. The depression only increased as the drugs interfered with any medication prescribed to treat the disease. The mother arranged for school, personal and family counseling, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and treatment programs. The son consented to try some, but soon dropped them; others he flatly refused to cooperate with or participate in. In the midst of this it became necessary for him to leave the family home, entering into a series of foster homes and residential schools.
Over the years, the mother kept up contact with the son when he would allow it. She slowly learned that the only way to help her son was to let him go—let him experience the consequences of his own actions, no matter how badly or helpless it made her feel. The one action left to the mother was prayer—calling on the grace of God to work in the life of her son and to eventually bring home the prodigal. And pray she did—bombarding heaven with clenched hands, tortured words and sighs too deep for words—beseeching God’s Holy Spirit to work in the life of her son.
As the years passed, the family relationship continued, with numerous ups and downs. On two occasions the son returned home for awhile, full of promises of reform; the mother full of hope that a change had really taken place; the daughter skeptical, but resigned to another attempt at reconciliation. Twice the attempt failed, with the son again embarking on the wayward path.
Then came the gift of grace—God’s free, undeserved gift to the son and the mother—and maybe even to the daughter. Being not much given to self-revelation, the son never really said what had brought him to the realization that he was on the fast track to destruction. Whatever it was, he finally cried out for help. On his own, he sought hospitalization, counseling, an addictions treatment program and reconciliation with the mother. All this took months with many stops and starts, fears and despair. But he did not waver from his stated desire to get away from the lifestyle in which he was mired. Finally, released from the hospital and beginning addictions treatment, he asked the mother to let him return home on a trial basis. It took all of her faith in God to call up the trust she needed to let him try again. Following a pattern set by the brother of the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable recorded in Luke 15, the daughter blew up, rebuking the mother for putting her faith in a lost cause and leaving them open once again to exploitation and disappointment. All this was followed by slammed doors and the silent treatment.
The tale is still unfolding. The mother was encouraged by a hug between siblings as the sister embarked on a summer’s vacation. Adjustments in medication are still causing ups and down for the son. How to deal with old friends from the bad times is still a problem to be solved. Getting on with life, carrying through with his stated intentions, continuing treatment, completing an interrupted education, rebuilding estranged relationships, making room for God in a life where God has not been welcome—all this takes time. But God’s grace has become more and more evident to the mother. She prays it will continue to unfold for her son and her daughter—grace for renewal, unreserved love and forgiveness for new life.
This issue contains other tales of lives enriched and renewed—all through the undeserved grace-gifts of God. (Perhaps some of us will even be moved to record our own or others’ grace stories.) May we celebrate this summer—and always—basking in God’s grace!
Gayle Moore Johannesson, Editor
(reprinted from Esprit, the magazine of Evangelical Lutheran Women, Summer 2001 issue, copyright © 2001)
Note: That was not the end of the story. More grace was needed as problems caused by addiction returned and returned, the family was again separated and estranged over a long period of years. But God’s grace, though sometimes it seemed absent, has returned and been renewed. Thank God for grace, faith and endurance. Gayle Moore-Morrans, 2013
I must have read the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) to my children a million times over the span of their childhood. I am not going to proclaim it was their favorite or even mine. But it was a good story that related to others and not me because in those days I was on fire for God and there was no way that I could or would ever become a prodigal son.
Unfortunately I labeled others who I saw seemingly leaving Gods will, forsake their calling, burying their talents etc.
See the problem was this, I never really met a real live contemporary prodigal.
I mean, no believer goes out one day and says, ‘that’s it I am going to be a prodigal son.’
I know this because, well, hmm, oh God help me say this, ok do it….I became a prodigal son myself.
Let me explain.
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