Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tough Love: The Hardest Love of All

Jesus once told a little story about tough love that seems perfect, and perfectly hard, for a Mother's Day post. I think you will recognize the story 

There was a father who had two sons. The younger son was disrespectful and rebellious. He thought the father was old-fashioned and unreasonable. "I could do things better," he often said to himself. There was constant strife in the home. 

Finally, the father confronted his son. Enough was enough. He wanted peace, and this was no way to live. "If you are going to live under my roof, you will have to do some things my way.  I am the father and you are the son. One day, you will be the father and you can decide how you want to do things. Can you understand that? There are certain things that are expected of sons. If you can't cooperate with that, you will have to live elsewhere. The choice is yours."  Surely he will see the light, the father thought. Where would he go?

The son was young, impetuous, and foolish. "You can't tell me what to do!" he stormed. "I don't have to take this!" Sadly, the father explained that the boy would have to leave. It was the saddest day of his life, and he thought he would die as he watched his son gather his possessions and walk down that long road. "Will he ever come home again?" he wondered.

Weeks went by, then months. Every day, the father watched for the son to return. Every day, he listened for news of his son. The things he heard broke his heart. The places he was going, the friends he was choosing... he could hardly believe it. "Is there no end to his foolishness?" he wondered.

There came a day when word came from the far land. His son had wasted all the money he had, lost his job, and ended up feeding pigs on a hog farm, sleeping in the barn. "Aren't you going to go get him?" the father's friends asked.  "No," he would say. "He chose this life. If he wants to come home, he will have to choose to change. I will wait. I can't choose for him." It was agony as he watched that long road.  "Please God, touch his heart. Watch over him. Bring him home. Give me my son back." He prayed and prayed and prayed. The rest of the family was about sick of his hoping and praying. Still, he prayed. 

Finally, when everyone else had given up, the father spotted a lone figure heading in his direction. Could it be?  Maybe... Yes. YES!!! It was his son!!! He had come home.  

"Oh, father. I have made such a mess of things. Would you let me be a servant here for you? I just want to come back. My way was all wrong. I'm so sorry."  The son was so ashamed. "Forget about being a servant. All I ever wanted was for you to be my son. Welcome home. Are you hungry? We're having a little party to celebrate!" The father was thrilled.  

The older brother had a tough time with his brother's return. It was hard for him to let go of all the mistakes. You can be sure the father let go of them, though. It was tough love in action. He let him go, and he welcomed him back. Do you think the father kept bringing up the past? I don't think so. He let the son come back home when the son was ready to be a son, and not a minute before. 

Tough love doesn't keep giving chances. It draws a line in the sand and says, "If you choose badly, these are your consequences. If you decide to choose wisely, this is what you can expect. Make a good choice, and live with what you choose." That's how God treats us. How can we do any less?

Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and the best. God chose you to be the parent for your children. He knew it was a big job, too big for you.  It's a God–sized job, and He offers all the help you need. Just ask. 

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NASB)