Parent of a Prodigal
Prodigals Affecting Marriage
Prodigals affecting marriage can truly be a difficult problem. When we think of a prodigal, we think of a wayward person —someone who lives life contrary to the way God would have him or her live. I was surprised when I looked up the definition because it was a lot different than I thought! And yet there was a thread of similarity, which ran through it.
What does prodigal mean?
The term “prodigal” is actually someone who “spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; a spendthrift.” It’s someone who “drives away or squanders” what they have.
I had always attached it to a person who had left their faith. In it’s narrowest definition, it doesn’t.
But when I really stopped to think about it, the above definition does include those who have left their faith.Most of us think of that terminology as it applies to the Prodigal Son (as referenced in the Bible in Luke 15:32). But when you consider the entire scenario, as it is posed in the Bible, the above definition is truly applicable.
He was a son who spent and squandered his time and money on substances and people “with wasteful extravagance.” He was a “spendthrift.
” He spent himself and his resources on that which was contrary to how his family and His God would deem to be wise and acceptable.
Essentially, prodigals are those who spend time and/or money in ways, which defy and challenge those who most care most about them (not those who take from them) in the long run.
Definition of a “Prodigal”
H. Norman Wright, in his book, Loving a Prodigal gives the definition of a prodigal as this:
“A prodigal is someone who goes against the family’s value system. A prodigal says, ‘I’d rather go this way, and I choose to reject all this over here.’ In a sense, it’s going counter-culture to the way the person has been raised. Prodigals have an intensity in their rebellion that is missing in the actions of other highly disobedient kids.”
How this affects marriage
What does this have to do with how prodigals affect marriage? Whether you are married to a prodigal or you have a child or close family member or friend who is a prodigal, it can lead you to a place where your patience and the boundaries of your love and grace are stretched and challenged in ways you never imagined possible! Eventually you discover that your home and relationships can become a feeding ground for conflict to arise. You can often find yourself in great conflict with the spouse who IS a prodigal, or in conflict with your spouse BECAUSE of prodigal.
When this prodigal turns on you in an opposing direction, you aren’t sure from one moment to the next how to handle it all. Your heart and emotions (and sometimes finances) become tied up in knots so that your emotions take you places you don’t want to go.
Norm Wright addresses the issue this way:
“It’s not a given that their marriage will be damaged. But the effects can be devastating if the parents aren’t in agreement on how to deal with this child. Maybe a wife makes decisions with her head. She thinks their child has done a wrong and therefore needs to experience the consequences.
But the husband makes decisions with his heart. He thinks, ‘We’ve got to cut this child some slack. Maybe with love and empathy and concern we can bring him back.’ So you’ve got that clash, and the child knows it. Kids are experts at pitting their parents against each other.
And so the child’s behavior becomes a divisive force within the marriage and polarizes the husband and wife.
“It’s hard enough for parents of cooperative kids to agree on discipline. How can parents of a prodigal child keep divisiveness their marriage?
“If couples have built a solid relationship to begin with—one of good communication and solid commitment—you then have a source of strength to draw from. But if you’ve got a tenuous, shaky marriage, any kind of crisis could throw you because you feel isolated. You feel a married single. You have the sense that you’re suffering through this ordeal alone.”
One thing for sure, it’s important to recognize the dividing force at work. If you have a child who is a prodigal —whether he or she lives in your home or is influencing it from the outside, you need to find ways to NOT allow it to divide you.
Pointing the blame
In a Todays Christian Woman article titled, “Married With Prodigals,” written by Caryn D. Rivadeneira, there’s an important point to prayerfully consider (because you could very well fall into this trap, if you aren’t careful). Caryn asks the question:
“What about blame? I imagine the urge to blame yourself or your spouse for your child’s rebellion is pretty strong.”
To that question, Norm Wright makes the point:
“Blame comes into play in a big way. Spouses throw around accusations , ‘You weren’t strict enough with him. You didn’t teach her. You were never home.’ There’s also the self-blame: ‘If only I hadn’t done this. Why didn’t I handle things better?’ This type of exchange is usually inaccurate and never helpful. It amplifies the extremes and doesn’t lead to a constructive discussion.”
The questions are then asked:
“But what if some blame is warranted? What if a parent did or failed to do something that may have contributed to the child’s prodigal lifestyle?”
To that, Norm Wright answers:
“Because every parent is imperfect, we’re going to make mistakes. Inadvertently, sometimes parents choose to put in more time with one child at the expense of another. Or they pour themselves into their career and shortchange their children.
But you need to remember that you could be the most perfect parent in the world. You could have done everything according to Scripture, and that child still could choose the wrong path in life. Look at God, the perfect Father.
He created two individuals, and they both turned their back and rejected him.
“But if there is legitimate blame on our part we need to resist the temptation to pass the buck. One of the ways we try to avoid accepting the blame is to turn it around and say, Adam did, ‘Lord, the woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit.‘ We blame our spouse.
“If there is some failure on our part—and which of us has never made a mistake?—remember that parenting mistakes are any other. We admit it. We accept the responsibility.
There’s a passage in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that says, ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.‘ This means we don’t have to live with regrets in our life. We can be free from that.
1 John 1:19 says, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.‘ If we confess, we can be cleansed.
The other question I ask people is, ‘What good does it do to blame your spouse for his or her failings as a parent?’ That is the past.
We can pour our energy into placing blame and condemning the other person. Or we can say, ‘Okay. What do we do now?’ Parents of prodigals must be present-focused and future-focused.
It’s counterproductive to pick apart the past to try to determine who was most to blame.”
If you need encouragement, as you are trusting God for your prodigal and you want a resource that can help you to draw closer to each other in your marriage, despite your pain, there is a ministry called Prodigalchildministries.org, which you can contact. They have a lot of resources and recommended resources you can tap into and use.
As a matter of fact, below are two testimonies you can read on their web site, which explain a bit about prodigals affecting their marriages:
• The Grahams
• The Brocard’s
Please know that if you have a spouse who is wayward and spends his or her time and/or money in wasteful, defiant ways, we have a topic on this web site titled, “Unbelieving Spouse,” which you may find helpful.
Yes, it may be that your spouse is a Christian or you thought so, at one time but now you are doubtful —whatever it may be, it’s as if you are living with an unbelieving spouse.
So again, you could find many suggestions and ways of viewing your spouse, which you could find in that topic, to apply.Keep in mind that even if your husband or wife is acting in ways, which do not reflect the heart of Christ —doing and saying things that are wrong, it still wouldn’t justify your acting in ungodly ways. Your spouse will someday have to give an account of what he or she did wrong.
Please don’t add to your own accounting by treating him or her in a way, which is not Christ- “because” of what he or she has or is doing. We see throughout the Bible that people ( Adam and others) tried to blame their wrong behavior on others and God didn’t buy it.
No matter what others say, wrong is still wrong.
Friends of prodigals
For those of you who have friends who are prodigals, please don’t allow your friends to drag your marriage into conflict with your marriage partner.
When you made your vows with your spouse, you acknowledged and then promised that you “are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” -Matthew 19:6.
Even long-term friendships need to be sacrificed for the good of the marriage, if necessary. It’s most painful, (I’ve been there) but necessary.
We have a few articles, which may help you work this through in your thinking and your actions. Both are in the “Assorted Marriage” topic and are titled, Friendships: How They Influence a Marriage, and the other is titled, Questions: Guiding Opposite Sex Friendships in Marriage.
For those of you who have prodigal parents, which are threatening the peace of your marriage (or even Christian parents who may mean well, but are not acting in biblical ways to be supportive of your marriage), please go to the Dealing with In Laws and Parents topic. Read through them and glean and use what you find to be helpful there. Again, you may have to make some tough decisions for the sake of your marital union if they are expecting more from you and are being invasive in how they act with you and your spouse, you may find help there.
I want to share with you something I found in an article titled, “Intercessory Prayer.” It is posted on the drjamesdobson.org web site. And even though it addresses parents who are dealing with prodigals, there is part of the article that can apply to praying for your prodigal spouse, as well.
The article starts with the question being posed about how to pray for their prodigal daughter when it all seems so long and hopeless.
In the answer, it is explained that sometimes when praying for a prodigal, it’s common to become disillusioned. We can often become confused in what we ask God to do, for our loved one.And that is what I’d to share below because I believe it to be inspirational in how to pray.
This particular advice comes from the book, Parents in Pain, written by Dr John White. Even though it deals with parenting issues, the following can be used in praying for any prodigal —a spouse, as well. [Please note that I divided the advice into bullet points for your praying convenience.]
What can we ask for in prayer?
- We may ask with every confidence that God will open the eyes of the morally and spiritually blind.
- We may ask that the self-deceptions which sinners hide behind may be burned away in the fierce light of truth,
- that dark caverns may be rent asunder to let the sunlight pour in,
- Pray that self-disguises are stripped from them to reveal the horror of their nakedness in the holy light of God.
- We may ask that the glory of Christ shines through the spiritual blindness caused by the god of this world. (See: 2 Corinthians 4:4.)
All of this we can asks with every assurance that God will not only hear but will delight to answer.
But we may not ask him to force a man, woman, or child to love and trust him
- To deliver them from overwhelming temptation: yes, we can ask.
- We can also ask God to give them every opportunity.
- To reveal his beauty, his tenderness, his forgiveness: yes, we can ask.
- But to force a man against his will to bow the knee: not in this life.
- And to force a man to trust him: never.
Said another way, the Lord will not save a person against his will. He has a thousand ways of making him more willing. Our prayers unleash the power of God in the life of another individual.
When we enter into intercessory prayer for our loved ones, we have been granted a privilege. We are able to hold their names and faces before the Father.
In return, He makes the all-important choices crystal clear to that individual and brings positive influences into his or her life to maximize the probability of doing what is right. Beyond that, He will not go.
I truly hope and pray this helps in some way.
My Prayer for You:
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Romans 15:5-6)
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
Prodigal children? How many estranged adult children return?
by Sheri McGregor, M.A.
Prodigal children—it’s a term I sometimes hear used by parents for their estranged adult children. They’re hopeful that as happens in the Bible account of the prodigal son, their adult children will come to their senses, realize their errors, and return to the family changed for the better.
They may be right. Their estranged sons and daughters may turn out to be prodigal children. Adults who disconnect from their families may, in fact, at some point realize they want their family back. It’s natural for parents to maintain hope.
How many estranged adults are truly “prodigal” children?
Recently, a mother asked if I had statistics. How many estranged adult children, she wondered, end up successfully reconnecting?
For me to come up with an accurate statistic that would require taking the same people whose info I used in the book (9,000 parents) and reconnecting with each and every one of them.
And then you’d have to reconnect again to find out if more reconciled in a later year. Or some left the family again. It would go on and on. Longitudinal studies that are difficult to do.
That’s one reason why, no matter the subject, few such studies are completed.
A study of a quantity of “average” families might also yield results, though perhaps less accurate. Families might be asked if they had ever had a son or daughter become estranged. And if they had, did they reconcile?
I am working on research right now about the families who do reconcile with their prodigal children (or estranged adult children, if that sounds better to you). Although I am more focused on the circumstances and experiences than the numbers.
If you have reconciled, please take the survey, Reconciling with Estranged Adult Children, and share the experience so that other parents might benefit from what you have learned.
Prodigal children? Or a gap that widens?
As of this writing, the survey has not shed much helpful light. It’s a client said to me the other day: “The more time goes on, the wider the gap becomes.”
This mother of an estranged daughter—who she hopes will one day return to her—echoes the troubling feelings expressed by many other parents: The more years go by the less a return might feel reuniting with a precious son or daughter as it would be about meeting a stranger.
For some it may be even worse. After all, this is a person they used to know. They may start to regard prodigal children more a neighbor known since babyhood. A neighbor that grew up and put them on total ignore. Or maybe did and said hurtful things.Maybe even shocking things that sullied reputations, emptied bank accounts, and created additional rifts. The neighbor might have returned a few times for short stays and been welcomed with open arms and hearts . . .
and then wreaked havoc and caused further damage.
After so many dashed hopes when contact is made for the wrong reasons, recognizing sincere intentions might be difficult. There are consequences to continued hurtful behavior, even when there’s forgiveness (as is explained in a prior article: Why forgive?). Trust can be a vulnerable thing.
Prodigal children: not necessarily a religious connotation
Obviously, the story of the prodigal has deeper meanings than how the term is being used here. This is not intended as a religious commentary or lesson.
If you’re estranged adult child did return to you, please take the survey and share your experience. I hope to share some happy reconciliation stories in the future.
An unknown future: What can you do now?
Many parents pray for their estranged adult or “prodigal” children. Many wish for their happiness, that they live fulfilling lives, and also maintain hope that they will someday reconcile. Of course, maintaining hope doesn’t mean staying stalled, forever sad, and unable to enjoy life. Don’t fall into the trap of limiting your life until or unless your son or daughter returns to you.
Life is fleeting. Live it fully. Now.
Parents of estranged adults really can have happy, productive lives, and still hold out hope for a son or daughter’s return. Along with information to help parents move peacefully forward, that’s one of the messages conveyed in my book, Done With The Crying, To find out more, go to the Amazon store and put these words into the search box:
Hit enter, and you’ll find Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children on the first page of results. If you click the title, you’ll be taken to its main listing where you can read more about the book as well as reader reviews. It’s now available in either paperback or E-book (Get your Kindle). Watch for the upcoming audio version next.
Shape your new normal
Emotional scars after an adult child’s estrangement
Lift the Heavy Burden of Shame: How to Care for Parents of Prodigals
Prodigal kids: the gaping wound for many Christian parents.
A child, whether adolescent or adult, is living out their worst nightmare by charting a course away from God.
They may be a people-pleasing prodigal, whose good appearance masks a godless heart, or a protesting prodigal, who blithely flips the bird to expectations and feels victimized by every consequence.
Yet there is one common denominator that unites most of their parents: as Christians, they bear a unique burden of shame.
Stop and ponder that last line. Let the irony tug at your curiosity. Christian parents of prodigals often bear a peculiar shame over their child’s unbelief.
It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? We believe Christ bore our shame (Hebrews 12:2).
The gospel unshackles us from sinful disgrace (Romans 5:5) and “everyone who believes in Christ will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11). So why do Christian parents bear such a heavy burden of shame?
The problem isn’t God. It’s his people.
What Can the Church Do?
We know the church is uniquely qualified to help suffering parents. Just look at our assets — the gospel, community, prayer.
But when a parent bleeds for their wayward son or daughter, the church can be quick to judge and slow to bind wounds. We can dish out shame rather than demolish it.
As a result, parents gravitate elsewhere for help, intuitively sensing their church is not a place of grace.
To be fair, it’s not easy for Christians to know what to do. We’re confused about how to care, what to say, whom to involve, and when (or if) to explore parental culpability.
We’re often well intentioned but poorly informed. We want to lift burdens and inspire hope, but we lack the skill.
So how do we speak to shame? What can churches do to become a place where families can heal and prodigals can return? Here are four thoughts.
1. Face Our Fear
Katy was raised in a Christian home, attended a Christian school, went to youth group, and made a gospel album as a teenager. When she sang, people wept. But Katy had other desires. She left home for Hollywood and recorded a racy hit in 2008: “I Kissed a Girl.”
You guessed it. I’m talking about superstar Katy Perry.
Mary Hudson, Katy’s mom, recently said, “I get a lot of negative vibes. People ask, ‘How could you have a daughter that?’” That question deserves our attention for two reasons. First, it’s a question that is deeply felt and often posed to prodigal parents. Secondly, the question betrays a haunting fear embedded within the church: “Could I have a daughter that?”
Rebellious kids trigger serious anxieties for Christians. We respond by playing the comparison game — examining prodigals and their parents to find differences between us and them, our kids and their kids.To assuage our own worry, we want to find something to explain, something to blame. Once comforted, we feel elevated and speak one of Job’s friends.
“You magnify yourselves against me and make my disgrace an argument against me.” (Job 19:5)
But comparison creates a callous culture where suspicion trumps compassion, speculation replaces intercession, and judgment supplants long-suffering. All Christians are called to suffer. For some, the pain comes through a prodigal. We must normalize this if the church is truly going to be a place of grace.
2. Offer Safe Space
Do you love a wayward soul? If so, I pray you enjoy a safe space: one with open ears, wide hearts, and unhurried conversation — where friends bear grief, withhold judgment, protect confidentiality, and meet shame with gospel hope.
Don’t misunderstand. Safe space doesn’t mean unaccountable, godless venting, or assuming every wayward sufferer is a victim. The story of a Pharisaical father with a runaway teen is timeless. But most parents of wanderers come to church assuming, at least on some level, they’re at fault. And that floating blame is a huge distraction to finding real hope.
When you hear the words wayward or rebellious tumble from parents’ lips, hear grief. Grieve with them (Romans 12:15). Don’t be a fixer! Entrust any discovery of culpability to God and time. It’s not the immediate priority.
The more we comprehend grace, the more our care moves from identifying their sin to sympathizing with their suffering. As we shift our posture from discerning hearts to delivering love, safe space expands and hearts open wide.
3. Label the Legalism
One of the less detected strains of legalism in the church today is the false hope of “deterministic parenting.
” This unspoken but deeply felt dogma assumes the parents’ faithfulness determines the spiritual health of their kids: “If I obey the Bible, discipline consistently, and push the catechism, then my kids will look good on earth and be present in heaven.” No parent would say it, but it’s really “justification by parenting.
” Such legalism smuggles in a confidence that God rewards faithful parents with obedient, converted kids and does so proportionally to what we deserve. We can wrongfully assume, “I’ve put in serious work, so I deserve a lot!”
We also flip it. If the gospel of determinism is true, a wayward child reveals parental failure. If a kid is spinning control, parents are just reaping what they’ve sowed.I’m not suggesting our parenting doesn’t matter. Godly parenting influences children positively and bad parenting influences them negatively. But the key word is influence. Too many Christians unconsciously confuse influence with determinative power. This assumption takes God, the world’s brokenness, and the human will the equation. We’re not masters of our own destiny or our children’s.
God is the perfect Father, and he still has prodigal children (Romans 3:23; Luke 15:11–32). What makes us think that could never be a part of our story?
4. Celebrate the Shame-Bearer
When parents of prodigals appear at a church event, shame tags along.
This invisible companion whispers within about how substandard they are as parents compared to the other gold-circle group that gathered.
Happy families can prompt pangs of guilt convincing them that no one could relate to their circus at home. The companion baits them to focus inward on their flaws or outward upon their circumstances.
Shame grows through this diversion. It feeds on how we feel when we look in the wrong direction. One of my daughters used to run with her head down, never looking where she went. After a few bumps and bruises, she learned a valuable lesson: the best way to move forward is to look up.
To suffocate shame, we must help hurting parents look up to Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).
The words “endured the cross” transport us back to the most dishonorable hours in human history. Jesus had friends but none stuck by him. One betrayed. Another denied him.
His followers? One week they sang “Hosanna!” and the next cried “Crucify!” He was entirely innocent yet was scorned as the worst of sinners.
Jesus knew deep shame, but the surprising twist comes in his response. He despised it.Christ despised shame because he saw beyond it. Shame is painful, but it was powerless to define Christ. Shame could not change Christ’s identity nor control his future. Shame had no voice of influence over Jesus, no ability to paste him with indignity or dishonor. Because Christ saw joy beyond it.
If you love a prodigal, you must learn shame-hating. Christ nailed our shame to the cross. In its place, he imputed to us his record of perfect righteousness. When God looks at us, he doesn’t see our parenting failures.
He doesn’t scroll through an unfiltered feed of ugly accusations and regrets. God sees his Son instead of us. We must look to Christ as well.
For the one who loves a wayward soul, a shift in gaze is the only link to present sanity and future hope.
Who Can the Church Be?
The church has an opportunity. Parents of prodigals come to us with tender wounds. What would happen if they received a warm invitation to a group led by a couple who has walked their path? What if they heard sermons with applications for wayward souls? What if the church identified with their shame so they left saying, “I’m not an outlier. They get me. Jesus can help.”
What if, for them, the church became a place of grace?
How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Parenting a Prodigal
So now what?
When your child’s rebellion crushes your heart, and your head is spinning in confusion, how can you stabilize yourself and make sense of it all? While one article could never address every area of what you’re going through, I’d to share with you at least a few things that can help you avoid some common pitfalls along the way.
You may want to read:
Don’t Allow Circumstances to Control
To think rightly about your child’s behavior and your situation, it’s imperative that you sift every single thought you have through these two fundamental and equally indispensable truths:
- God is good
- God is sovereign
Typically, you’ll stand firmly on one but stumble over the other. Let’s say you unequivocally believe God is good, but have a hard time resting in His sovereignty. As a result, you experience things false guilt, blame, fear, and worry.
You’ll give yourself too much credit for your wayward child and develop a bad case of the could of/ would of/should of’s. This improper thinking consumes your mind with never-ending scenarios of what could have been done differently to change your script. That will drive you insane!
On the other hand, if you heartily believe God is in complete control over all that happens but you start to doubt His goodness, you’ll be disappointed, angry, and cynical (Psalm 22:2-3). Since God can’t be trusted, you’ll look for self-reliant methods to help relieve your suffering. That will drive you to sinful strongholds!
When life doesn’t make sense, your problems can become your focus. You process what’s happening to you through the lens of your hurt. This wrong worldview leads to feelings of discouragement and hopelessness.
The fact is: God IS good (Psalm 100:5, Psalm 86:5) and God IS sovereign (Daniel 4:35, Proverbs 16:9, ) no matter what has happened to you. Period.
These two truths must be your starting point as you think about your child, the poor decisions they’re making, and the ways you messed up as a parent.This “mental realignment” will give you a solid foundation to proceed from as you walk through this difficult time.
Funneling your thoughts through the great and unchanging nature of God will stabilize your soul, no matter how bad your situation rocks your world (Isaiah 41:10, Proverbs 3:23).
Don’t Expect Others to Know How to Care
When you’re suffering, you’re fragile. This vulnerability can cause you to be overly sensitive, easily offended, and frequently disappointed with others (Proverbs 19:11). You’re hurting in a bad way, and so you want people to reach out and help you bear this burden (Galatians 6:2).
While this may be a good desire (believers are called to bear each other’s burdens), be cautious about turning it into an expectation for others to meet. If you do, you’ll find yourself becoming self-centered and resentful (Ephesians 4:26-27).
In no way do I mean this as a slight, but the reality is your friends may not know how to care for you. They’re ill-equipped to enter into the messiness of your mess, and quite frankly, it probably scares them.
The solution is not a quick and straightforward scenario that gets all tied up into a pretty little package in 30 minutes or less. It requires wisdom, discernment, long-suffering, correction, gentleness, and even a loving rebuke when necessary. Let’s just say it’s not for sissies!
Seek out one or two trusted friends and let them know you need help – and how. If you put on a brave face around them, then they don’t know what’s going on in your heart.
Don’t rehearse and repeat in your mind all the ways people have let you down (Ephesians 4:32). Tuck these life-lessons from God into your pocket for future use. It will make you a better burden bearer for others when the time comes for them to need care (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Learn the Who, How, and Why of Sharing
I bet there’s a lot of junk going on in your home – and heart. Because of that, there are times you just need some practical advice and a sympathetic ear. But not so fast! Not everyone is a good candidate for you to unload your dirt on. Before you speak, think:
- Does this person have my child’s best interest at heart – and mine (Philippians 2:3)?
- Are they mature and humble, having a speck-eyed attitude about the sin of others (Matthew 7:3)?
- Do they gossip or slander people (Proverbs 20:19)?
- Can they handle the truth and not hold resentment as a result of this information (Matthew 7:1-2)?
- Are they objective peacemakers, and not side takers (Romans 14:19, Matthew 5:9)?
- Will they speak the truth that I need to hear, even if it’s hard (Ephesians 4:15)?
If you’re blessed enough to have people this to share with, make sure you’re mindful of your words and the way you talk about your child’s sin. Your motivation about what to disclose should stem from an honest desire to help your child and your sanctification.
Oh, and since you’re sharing, don’t forget to divulge the sinful ways you’ve responded to your child’s sin. A wise friend will know this already and challenge you to examine yourself.
You may fall on the other end of the spectrum. Instead of talking too much to too many people, you don’t tell anyone. You pretend everything is hunky-dory and try to cover things up. This approach is a wrong response as well.When people don’t fall within those descriptors above, you can be honest without being specific. If they inquire about what’s happening in your family, you could say: “Yeah, it’s tough. Our daughter is making some poor choices.” Or “Yes, we are burdened that our son is walking in disobedience.”
This response doesn’t slander your child’s reputation, and it doesn’t ignore the sin and pretend it doesn’t exist. Now I realize they will make assumptions and come to their conclusions about what’s happening, but that’s alright. You’re not hiding anything, just simply using wisdom and showing grace on behalf of your child.
So guard what you say, who you say it to, and why you say it (James 1:26). You’ll be glad you did!
Don’t Map Your Experience On Your Child
News flash. Your child is not you! Now, I’m not trying to be “Captain Obvious” here but if you know this, why do you often take the dumb stuff you’ve done, and assume your kids will do the same?
They may make some of the same foolish choices you did. That’s very possible. They may even choose a more rebellious path. That’s possible too. There is nothing new under the sun after all (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Either way, you don’t want to make your experience theirs.
Your child was hand-crafted by God. He put them together with individual attributes and gifts that differ from yours (Psalm 139:13). There are other factors as well that contribute to the kind of person they become. Where they live, your parenting style, the date on the calendar, and their experiences all play a role in shaping their personality, proclivities, and presuppositions.
What you’ve learned from your mistakes has given you insight no doubt. It would be unwise to think your child needs the same lessons and correction you did. God’s means of grace may come to them in a much different package.
Don’t be rigid about your expectations of what you believe it will take to turn them around. God has a way of custom-tailoring the events of our lives to bring us to Himself (2 Samuel 14:14).
In the story of the prodigal son, he had to end up eating some nasty pig pods (whatever that is) before he came to his senses (Luke 15:16-17). That was his “bottom.” He came to the end of himself. Me? God had to send a triple whammy my way – a health scare, a death in the family, and my marriage in shambles.
How about you? What did God use as your “pig-trough moment” to turn you around? I’m sure it’s amazing how He got a hold of your heart and opened your blind eyes.Don’t give up hope friend! Continue to pray that God would bring your son or daughter to their end and they would have their “aha” moment. It’s probably going to be different from what you think, but that’s okay. God’s ways are far superior to what we come up with (Ephesians 3:20).
God is able. God is willing (2 Peter 3:9). But even if He doesn’t do what you’re begging Him to do, He’s always good, dear sister and brother. He hasn’t left His throne of grace and He rules righteously over all He has made (Hebrews 4:16, Lamentations 5:19). And because of that, you can trust Him completely.
You are in a tough spot, I know. There’s no simple solution or easy process to “fix” your child and your relationship. There’s much more to this discussion, so please reach out. Let us know how we can help.
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Mary Hudson is a minister’s wife, a gifted preacher, an author and a mentor to many Christian women. But she’s also the mother of one of the most famous entertainers in the world, pop singer Katy Perry. For that reason, many Christians turn a cold shoulder to Mary and her husband, Keith.
“I get a lot of negative vibes,” Mary told me this week during an interview in Hawaii, where she was hosting a women’s conference. “People ask us, ‘How could you have a daughter that?'”
Mary certainly never expected things would turn out this way. When she was pregnant with Katy, an evangelist prayed over her and declared, “This child will do something great for God.” When Katy was 9 years old, a charismatic minister prophesied that she would stand before kings and presidents. Katy wrote worship songs as a young girl and began performing solos in church.
When Katy sang to Christian audiences as a girl, “the anointing for worship was incredible,” Mary recalls. “People would just weep.”
The Hudsons raised their children to serve God
Katy, along with her older sister and younger brother, attended Christian schools. Katy also tried to become a gospel singer, but the Christian album she released in 2001 didn’t sell.
Then she moved to Hollywood at age 17 and eventually signed a deal with a secular record company. She became an overnight sensation in 2008 with the release of her racy hit single, “I Kissed a Girl.”
Mary was devastated when she listened to that song and realized her daughter was headed in the wrong direction. “I felt I was flattened to the wall,” Mary says.Katy’s powerful voice, creative songwriting ability, and quirky artistic flair propelled her career. She became one of the best-selling musical artists of all time and is now worth $125 million—at age 32.
She is a household name around the world.
She even did a private concert at the White House for President Obama, and her popularity soared into the ozone when she performed at halftime for the Super Bowl in 2015.
Her adoring fans love her versatility, her outrageous stage persona, her spunky femininity and her unbridled sensuality.
They’ve watched Katy change her hair color from brunette to electric blue to pink to blond and back to brunette. They’ve laughed at her crazy costumes.
And because Katy has more followers than anyone on the planet, most of her fan base knows she was raised in a Christian home by conservative parents.
Katy has sometimes taken swipes at her parents in media interviews. She has disavowed her Christian upbringing at times—even though the name “Jesus” is tattooed on the inside of her wrist.
And in her newest album, Witness, she displays a new level of over-the-top sexuality that would make most people blush.
(The video for her newest hit single “Bon Appetit” could best be described as soft porn created especially for the Food Network.)
How does a Christian mother handle it when she sees her daughter drifting so far from the values she taught her?
It hasn’t been easy.
“The devil definitely tries to steal my joy,” Mary told me. “I sometimes have to fight depression.” A few years ago, Mary anchored her soul to Psalm 113:9, which says, “He gives the barren woman a dwelling, making her the joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!”
That verse inspired her to write her 2015 book, Joyful Parent, Happy Home. Mary believes if you want your children to live for God, “You have to get happy and stay in the ‘God zone.’ It’s just when a plane takes off in a storm. The thunder and lightning may be raging, but once you reach 30,000 feet, the sun is always shining.”
Mary’s close friends also support her unconditionally. And she asks new friends to agree with her in prayer for a miracle turnaround for her daughter. Meanwhile, Keith released a book on prayer in 2009 that examines how God hears our heart’s cries. It is called The Cry: The Desperate Prayer That Opens the Heart of God.
Mary believes parents of prodigals must focus on others rather than wallowing in their own pain
For the past 11 years, she has poured her life into women who attend her Arise conferences.
“You have to take your mind off your own situation and focus on others if you are ever going to see the light of day,” Mary says. “Pouring myself into the Arise conferences has been a lifeline. Not only have thousands of women been helped, but with every meeting, my faith gets cranked up a notch.”
The Hudsons also have chosen to love Katy no matter what. They stay in close contact with her, and Mary sometimes takes calls in the middle of the night from Katy because of her non-stop concert schedule. (Katy asked her mother for prayer after a terrorist attack killed 22 people at pop star Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester, England.)
I asked Mary what counsel she has for parents who have children who have left their Christian faith behind. She believes unconditional love and support is essential—not judgment, anger or estrangement. “It’s only the love of God that will bring them back,” she says. “Don’t cut them off. You have to rise above your feelings. You must stay in communication.”
The Christian community should also show unconditional love to ministers Keith and Mary Hudson
Rather than judging them for raising a prodigal, we should show compassion.
I hope you will love Katy Perry instead of criticizing her choices and pray for her as if she were your own daughter.
This article by J. Lee Grady originally appeared on Charisma Magazine
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010.
Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression.Author of several books including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, he has just released his newest book, Set My Heart on Fire, from Charisma House. You can follow him on at @LeeGrady or go to his website, themordecaiproject.org.
It breaks my heart to see so many Christians rise up in judgment over the parents of children who are away from the Lord. Not only does it further hurt and destroy families; it also hurts the name of Christ.
If you’re a parent of a prodigal, you should know the pain that Katy’s parents are experiencing.
Nothing could be worse than dealing with the pain of a child who you know is a way from God even though you’ve raised them in the ways of Christ.
Katy Perry’s parents are far from perfect. But aren’t we all. That’s the beauty of Jesus. He loves us through our imperfections. The best thing we can do is to pray for Katy and her family.
Let’s stop judging them and start praying for them and their kids!