15 Jul 2016

Lessons From The Father Of The Prodigal Son

Submitted by Stephen Winters
In a men's group which I colead with another guy there are times when everyone shows up and then there are sometimes when it's just the two of us, when no one else shows up. It would be very easy to get discouraged and say, "Let us close down this group and do something else because this isn't working." (To read more about the focus of the group, go here: The Call to Go Deeper, in a Small Group.)
Then I get to thinking about two other strong lessons in my life. One is about the father of the Prodigal Son and the other was about our First Friday game night.
When I think about the father of The Prodigal Son I think of how the son left. He wanted his share of his father's estate so that he could go out and do whatever he wanted. His father could have said no. But for whatever reason he decided to give his son a portion of his estate. We all know the story of the prodigal son so I won't go into it at this point. 
What I want to focus on is the father. Suppose, if the father had decided, that after he gave his son his portion, that the father would have just retired and decided to do whatever he wanted. How would the story have ended differently? For one thing, later in the story we can see the attitude of the older brother told the returning Wayward younger brother. If the father had not of been there then the younger brother would have had nothing to come back to, accept the judgment and condemnation of the older brother. I would imagine that the younger brother, after he had spent all this money and was living with the pigs was ready to change his ways and to come back home. But, if all he had to come back to with the judgmental attitude of this older brother, then the story may have ended completely differently. Perhaps the younger brother would have left again and to what end no one knows.
However, since the father stayed in his position as a head of the household and the head of all the property he made it possible for the younger brother to return. I would imagine that there may have been many times when the father looked out down the road and wondered if his son would ever come back. He may have even got discouraged and wanted to give up on waiting for his son. But, instead, we have the example of the father who continued holding forth and not giving up no matter what the circumstances may have seemed to indicate.
Now in the second example I am going to talk about our game night. We have been having the game night on the 1st Friday most of the time for the last several years. Some nights we have had almost a full house with people falling all over one another. On other nights there have been a just few, or even a couple. And even on some nights no one besides Emmy and I showed up. During these times we could say, "Let's just give it up because not enough people all showing up." But if we did that then we would miss out on all the good times when people do come and we do have a good time. So Emmy and I have decided to continue game night month after month whether anyone appears to be going to show up or not. And we have had a lot of good wonderful nights, even if only one, two, or only a few show up. At some time we may end it but not now.
Now I am coming to the men's group that Tony and I are leading. We continue to have the group whether or not anyone shows up. (Fortunate, most meetings we have at least one or two others.)
  • For one thing we are giving them a place that they can come to whenever they are able to come.
  • Secondly, it is teaching us to be faithful to the idea that we hold valuable  regardless of what circumstances might indicate.
  • Thirdly, I really treasure the times when it is just the two of us. It gives us yet another time to interact on a closer level and  deepen our relationship
And furthermore, as I think about this even more, I think about one of the guys in our group. He does occassionally show up. But he is going through some pretty difficult times right now. There have been many times that he has either not shown up for the group oh he has not followed through in getting together with me. It would be easy to get discouraged and give up on him. But I am realizing that it is needful for me to continue to be faithful and helpful towards him even when he does not seem to respond. In many ways this is like living out the part of the father of The Prodigal Son, of being there for the son or the other person even when that other person seems to be struggling or seemingly going astray. It is not for me to decide what is the right path for another person to follow. Each of us only comes to the fulfillment of our Journey when we follow our own path. We need to let the other person follow his path and give him what help we can along the journey.
And, as I follow this thought even further it would seem that many, if not all, of us parents are parents of prodigal children. It may be very difficult to let each child struggle along his own pathway. As parents we have thoughts of which path of children should take and we want to guide them down that way. The difficult thing is to realize that each child has his or her own destiny , even if it seems to go against the path that we want him or her to take. Much like the father of The Prodigal Son , as parents we must hold true to the position and the duties that we have been given.

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