What having a prodigal’s been good for

Categorized as Rhonda's Posts

This is a post that’s been percolating for awhile now. While some inspiration comes instantaneously, other messages take time to develop. This is one of those.

Recently, I shared frankly and honestly about our great travail and the longstanding trial of having a prodigal son. I started the Prodigal Prayer Project when a whole bunch of you slipped me the names of your own runners, and I wrote them down, longhand, in my book. I pray for them and for you.

As the mother of a running-away child, I know the terror, the heartbreak, the black despair, the bone-deep pain, and the overwhelming wish that God would simply wave His magic wand and make it all go away. Make it better.

I know sleepless nights; know the exhaustion that weighs your limbs like leaden weights. I have prayed countless fevered prayers, tried to drum up greater faith, worked hard to “stand on the promises” until my legs felt like jelly, and I could not “stand on a promise” for one more day. One hour. One minute.

I do know.

Today, I’m teaching you from the furnace. I’m not teaching you from the other side of it; I am teaching you from my spot IN the furnace. I believe that I have much grace, wisdom, and encouragement to you who, too, are feeling the fire’s heat. Here’s what I’ve learned from our protracted time in God’s refining fire.

Having a prodigal son has brought tremendous change to us, his parents. Never in one million years did we ever think this would happen to us. Never. But it did, and it was the very thing that God used to break my husband; to bring him to his face in full surrender. In that hour, he was delivered from his own anger and unforgiveness. It was in that hour and in the months and years since then that God broke generational chains and bondages from him (and from me) that may not have been broken. My husband is a changed man, and it has brought great blessing to our family. I strongly believe that because we’ve chosen righteousness through repentance, it will change the course of generations to come. Praise God!

Having a prodigal son has been one of our greatest opportunities to learn to trust God. When I became a mother, my already-present fear factor skyrocketed to new heights. And when one of my sons began self-destructing, the fear I felt was overwhelming. From that base of fear, I sought to control and manage until the day that Jesus told me, “Unless you lay your Isaac down, this will never work. As long as you’re down front, stirring around, you are preventing Me from doing My full work.” That was the last thing I wanted to do, and so I laid that boy of mine on the altar, and then I added his brothers, one, two, three, and then myself.

During one of his darkest seasons, I knew that the threat of jail was real. “Let this cup pass from me,” I would cry out until one day a spiritual mother said, “No. We cannot pray that way, for it may be the very thing God needs to use.” I felt in my heart the truth of it, so I knelt at the couch in my quiet house and said, through my tears, “If it is possible, then let this cup pass. But if not, then I trust You.” And shortly after that, the call.

When my son walked into the house a week later, he said words I will never forget. “Mom, that was exactly what I needed right now.” In that moment, I knew two things for sure. One, that God’s timing was always right, and, two, that God could be trusted.

I used to live, tormented by the “what ifs.” I don’t live there anymore. I used to live suffocated by fear. Fear’s no longer my captor. It took a very long, extended time in the furnace for those bands of fear to burn away and for a new, free “me” to emerge. Again, I praise my God.

Having a prodigal son has taught us about God’s love for us. During the process, someone told Mr. Schrock one day, “It’s not the parent’s job to pursue the children. It’s the children’s job to pursue the parents.” Instantly, I felt a check in my spirit, and when I thought about the way that God has worked with me (with us), I knew the truth. “We love Him because He first loved us.” So my husband went to his son and said, “Where would you be if I hadn’t pursued you?” And our son, who was back at the time, said without hesitation, “Well, Dad, I would for sure still be in my sin. Then I would either be dead, or I would be in prison.”

Our pursuit of our son has taught us about God’s pursuit of us. Our heartbreak over him has spoken of His heartbreak when we go astray. Our mercy and unconditional love for him at his worst mirrors weakly God’s mercy and unconditional love for us at our worst. We, together, praise God for this.

Having a prodigal son has given us empathy for others. We are far slower to judge, far quicker to understand those who are walking this path. Others who’ve gone before us have been comforters and teachers for us, and we, in turn, now comfort and teach other people. “Lord, do not let this trial be wasted on only me,” I would pray. And I know–I know!–that He’s answering my prayer.

This is not a comprehensive list of blessings that we’ve received from our son, because of our son, and from the hand of the God in Whom we trust. This is why I may not pray, when you ask me, for a quick and easy resolution to your own journey with a prodigal. If you will let God do all the work that He’s wanting to do, you will come through the fire much freer, much happier, much stronger, and much more peaceful than when you went in. And with much more of God Himself, which is the greatest treasure of them all.

Here is a partial list of posts I’ve written in the past about our journey:

When someone you love is running

What you should know if you’re loving a stray

For the one with a prodigal, what you should know

How to love those who are loving on runners


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