"Just run away, Forrest." Jenny gave Forrest Gump this advice when he faced unpleasant situations. And I've done it.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, "I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth, I knew not where." And I've done that, too, though not literally.
One concerns reaction, and the other, focus. As a parent, teaching my children both was taxing. Their reaction to my guidelines and methods of discipline didn't always produce the desired response. Anger, sulking, sarcastic remarks, stomping out of the room, going to their mom — at one time or another, they tried them all. And since they were inexperienced, their focus was often on the immediate and temporary.
The prodigal son's was too.
Luke 15:13 – Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. (NIV)
His father provided him a good life presently and had an inheritance waiting for him. But his father's time frame and definition of enjoyment didn't fit his, so he disregarded his father's authority as head of the family, requested his share before his father's death, and walked away.
Many parents experience the heartbreak of children walking away — from relationships, responsibilities, home, family. But most devastating is a walk away from God. At best, we have only twelve years to convince our children of faith's importance. Foundations are laid early.
What can a parent do when children walk away? Take comfort that you have given them a secure foundation. The structures that they build on it may temporarily crumble, but the foundation never will. Pray. God never gives up on His children, nor should we. Forgive, because parental love is unconditional. And be available when they return.
Parenting is perhaps life's most difficult job, but it gives a glimpse of God's relationship with us. As He loves us through our foibles, so must we love our children.
Prayer: Regardless of our children's ages, God, give us the grace to love and guide them with unconditional love. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "Blessed Assurance" (Lyrics)