When the Prodigal is a Parent

Marriage offers many benefits, but primarily a healthy marriage provides balance. Since spenders wed savers, risk-takers bond to safety-lovers, chocoholics find physical trainers, and spastics unite with steady-rudders, balance is maintained because they keep each other in check.
But divorce severs that tether allowing natural tendencies and desires to go unleashed. So, basking in post-marriage freedom, drinkers can drink more, couch potatoes couch more, spenders spend more, and philanderers play the field. However, we get entangled in all this. 

Wanting to scream
How do you greet Mom’s 12th boyfriend? Are you responsible to keep your father from eating Cheetos and Red Bull chasers for dinner? Does Mom really think she looks good in that outfit made for women 25 years younger? Tired of explaining to your kids how “til death do us part” fits into grandpa’s fourth wedding? Frustrated because your parents don’t get why you’re upset with their life choices? Perhaps a look at prodigals may help.

Perspective on Prodigals
The word “prodigal” comes from a story Jesus told about a young man who left the blessings of his home and “wasted all his money in wild living.”1 The son eventually realizes he messed up and plans to return home groveling. But the father sees the son returning and runs to greet him. Instead of condemnation, kisses and hugs are showered on the son. Then the father throws a my-rebellious-son-who-I-dearly-love-has-returned party. Jesus’ point is we are the prodigal and God is the father. As such, we should respond to our prodigals as the father in this story—but we usually don’t.

How we deal with our prodigals
Our response to prodigal parents is often:
1)     We brood over how things should be, could have been, or how we wish our parents should act.
2)    We harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, and withhold grace because we focus on our parent’s prodigal ways (and the hurt it causes) forgetting we, too, are prodigals in God’s eyes.
3)    We dabble in their behaviors because we’ve secretly wanted to do it anyway and if a parent can do something it’s justified for us…even if we know it’s wrong.

How does God deal with prodigals?
He loves them.  And we need to follow God’s example, but how do we do that?
1) Pray for them – prayer may change them, but often changes our attitude toward them.
2) No badmouthing. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.2  It’s tempting to talk them down, but find the positives and talk them up—particularly in front of your kids.
3) Maintain boundaries – Often their decisions impact us because we allow them to. Our desire for their love, or fear of losing it, can cause us to comingle in their dysfunction instead of maintaining healthy boundaries in love3.

While prodigal parents can challenge us, they can also stimulate spiritual and character growth. We just need to remember their actions are their choice. Our response is our choice.

1Luke 15:13, NLT
2Ephesians 4:29, NLT
3Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Boundaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.)

Images
Shutterstock
The Parables of Our Lord – The Prodigal Son by John Everett Millais by Birmingham Museum and Art  Gallery
Talk to the hand by Matt Foster
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

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Getting Along, Is That Too Much to Ask?

It’s not uncommon for a divorced parent to tell me they wish their daughter or son would get over their divorce and move on. The motivation is usually loving concern. However, there are also those who wish their adult children would get over it so they can get on with their own life—guilt free. After all, is that too much to ask?

On the other side, a chief complaint of many adult children of divorce (ACOD) is they can’t get their mom, dad, and step-parent in the same room without the fear or World War III breaking out. Why can’t everyone behave for just one hour? Is that too much to ask?

When kids become endangered species by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig cartoonIt might be too much to ask
Part of the healing process for ACOD’s is accepting that their parents don’t (and some won’t) understand what we experienced regarding their divorce. Surprisingly, this includes parents who are ACOD’s. To overcome this, some therapists suggest a time of sharing and asking parents questions about the divorce can help with this. We’ll look at that idea in the future, but for now we must realize that our parents’ lack the knowledge and/or the incentive to understand us may not change.
Freedom by John MooreBut just as important to the healing process is understanding our parents’ point of view. While this may seem sacrilegious, grasping their perspective can help us avoid unrealistic (and possibly even unfair) expectations. I remember how annoyed I was with my mother when she was crotchety with my dad and stepmoms. I was well into my adult years before I pondered how I’d be if my wife left me and remarried.

Would it be like high school or college when you broke up and your ex started dating someone else? Did you want to be chummy with their new squeeze? Imagine facing them all the time—like at every family event.

Yes, Mom was clueless to the divorce’s impact on us. But only in the last few years have I appreciated the sacrifice and strength it took her to just “be crotchety” while breaking bread with the enemy instead of hitting them with a brick.

The answer lies with us
So is it too much to ask for us for a little more grace with our parents’ humanness? It’s not easy—I know. Bible with Cross Shadow by David CampbellBut it’s not our job to change hearts. That’s God’s job. It’s our job to submit to Him so He can do a healing work in our hearts. Also when we submit to God, His love can flow through us and touch our parents—which also does a healing work in our hearts.

Being misunderstood can be painful for both sides. God knows that: the biggest misunderstanding in history killed His Son. The Bible also tells us that “love covers a multitude of sins.”I encourage you to push through the hurt of misunderstanding and allow God’s love to bring healing to you and your parents. That is not too much to ask.

11 Peter 3:8. NLT

Photos
When kids become endangered species by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig cartoon
Freedom by John Moore
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

The New Audio Series on Adult Children of Divorce Issues is Up

Earlier this year I recorded ten radio programs for the Champions Arise ministry of Trans World Radio (TWR). In this series, Foster Braun interviewed me on how parental divorce affects the children and the adults they become.Kent Darcie with Foster Braun 25% These fifteen-minute programs include an overview of the issues adults with divorced parents face and detailed discussions on anger, father hunger, forgiveness, and other topics.

This is a great introduction to why adults with divorced parents struggle with relationships and divorce at significantly higher rates. Click here to connect to the program list and audio links.

The “Importance of Boundaries” Audio is Now Up

The recording of my talk on the New Beginnings Program with Rick Van Briggle is now up on this site. I discussed one type of boundary and how to apply it when dealing with parents and step-parents. Click here to listen to the 30 minute program.

The Importance of Boundaries for Adult Children of Divorce

I’ll be hosting the New Beginnings Program with Rick Van Briggle this Saturday at 9am EST. The importance of boundaries for adults with divorced parents will be discussed. The show is broadcast on 1340AM WEXL and streamed at WEXL1340.com. Join us for the discussion!Kent Darcie from Adult Children of Divorce Ministries  on WEXL 1340AM