The Prodigal Son: Who Do You Identify With?

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At my church, we have trainings for  members who want to serve in different ministries. They call it, Discipleshift (not mis-spelled) Training. Throughout the day we have small break out sessions, activities and exercises to better assist us with complicated issues that we as Christians and the church face. This training also goes deep and we learn a lot about our own personal relationship with our family, friends, co-workers, God and ourselves.  One of the exercises that brought me to tears and a deep pain I had been harboring since childhood was the parable of, “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-31). Here is my abridged version:

The youngest son tells his father to give him his share of the estate. He wanted to go out into the world and experience life. His father gives him his share. Of course the young man squandered all of his wealth on wild living. Soon, a severe famine his the country and the young man had to resort to hiring himself out to a farmer to feed the pigs and tend the land. He realizes the pigs were eating better than he was and decides that he will return home and humble himself to his father in hopes he could just be a servant.  When the father sees him in the far distance, he runs to his son, embraces and kisses him. He instructs the servants to bring his best robe, ring and sandals to put on his son and then to slaughter the fattened calf. This was to be a celebration that his youngest son has returned home.  

The older brother was still out in the field working. When he came near the house, he could hear the music and laughter. He asks one of the servants what was happening. He learns that his brother had returned home and they were celebrating. The older brother was angry and refused to go inside. His father comes out and pleads with him to come and celebrate. The eldest son then points out the obvious, that it was he who had stayed and worked while his younger brother went off and wasted all the money. The father says to him, “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive and again; he was lost but now is found.” 

Who do you best relate to in the story, and why? I related to the oldest brother, but not for what might be the obvious reason. Those who chose the older brother related to feeling angry that he was the responsible brother that stayed home and helped his father while his younger brother left the family, took his money and went off on his own. Instead of consequences, the father welcomes him home with open arms and a celebration. As I speak as the eldest son, my resentment was that my father didn’t even consider me at the moment of recognizing my brother. He didn’t run to get me and share with me the good news. Instead, I was left in the field continuing to work.  Forgotten. It wasn’t until I asked about the commotion was I informed of the festivities. It was though I was an after thought.

Once I realized how this story upset me, I identified some of my childhood resentment. Often times, I did feel left out.  I was ten years younger than my sister, coupled with the fact I was too young to participate in the activities they enjoyed.

Our Lord never abandons us. He enjoys the fact that we want to spend time with Him. Because of the Lord, I am able to let go of the anger and resentment I held on to for so many years. I honestly don’t believe my mother nor my sister were intentionally trying to hurt me. The reality is, there were many events with my mother that didn’t include my sister.

I am so grateful that I have a God who loves me unconditionally. Through Him, I am able to forgive those who hurt me in the past. I have grown so much in Christ that all the “little” things that used to eat me alive, really don’t matter at all anymore. Grace be to God!

Who do you identify with and why?  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

 

Children With Special Needs Are Gifts From God Too

As a retired special education teacher, I have watched the up’s and down’s of a parent coming to terms with their child’s diagnosis of autism, ADHD, behavior disorders  and mental retardation just to name a few.  I have witnessed the anger and frustration toward God asking, “Why my child God? I never did drugs or alcohol while pregnant. I was careful with my diet. Why did this happen to me?”  This is not the time to tell a parent that it’s,  “God’s will” or that, “God has a reason”.  What I prefer to do in such cases is to introduce them to the poem, “Welcome To Holland” By Emily Perl Kingsley. (http://dsnetworkaz.org/holland ). Since I retired from the school district, I  spend time advocating for parents and their child reach their full potential in the public school system as well as at home and their community.  

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” ~Jeremiah 1:5

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”           ~Psalm 139:13

  God does not make mistakes.  I have never been able to answer the parent’s question, “Why?” but I love to share with parents what wonderful gifts I see in their child. Working with these children, I have discovered that I learn as much from them as I hope they learn from me. God has blessed me with a special gift of being able to work with His  children. As a teacher, the job can be stressful at times, but patience and continuity are essential. I see the potential and celebrate their gifts that God gave them as well. While many children with autism share similar  characteristics of autism, they are still unique individuals with their own special skills. They are God’s sons and daughters. Look beyond the disability and see their distinctive ABILITIES!

As for the parents of these wonderful children, God never gives us more than we can bear (even though we all question just how strong He thinks we are) God has chosen you because you have a gift to raise this child with love, patience and understanding. There will be tough days, but the successes and milestones your child reaches, no matter how small it seems, is cause for celebration.  God bless you.