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Petals and "Prodigal" Children

purple and pink lamium petals
garden full of purple lamium

Same soil. Same sunlight. Same water consumption. Different colored petals.

Among hundreds of purple petals are a handful of light pink ones. I know there has to be a scientific explanation for this. (Gardeners out there, feel free to teach me something new about lamium.) But for the purpose of this analogy, I am going to ignore the science for a moment.

To my eye, these flowers have the same biological makeup, all coming from lamium seed. They are growing in the same soil. They have the same exposure to sunlight, the same water consumption. And yet, they have produced two different colored petals, just in this tiny part of the garden.

… which got me thinking about our kids.

Our children, with similar genetic makeup, grown in the same soil of our homes, nurtured in similar ways… and yet, our children develop differently from each other. They can develop differently from the hope we had for them.

Why? I can think of two reasons.

  • Each individual child is unique, and they may respond to the same environment in different ways. What works well for one child may not work for the other.

  • Each child has free will. Proper nurture and discipline don’t always produce the results we desire.

Just as there must be a scientific reason for these different-colored petals—something hidden from my eyes, something deeper than my understanding—there must be a spiritual reason for these different children—something hidden from my eyes, something deeper than my understanding.

So let’s be free! Let’s be free of the shame. Let’s be free from assuming all of the responsibility for the way our children “turn out.”

Yes, let’s acknowledge our failures, take them to God for forgiveness, and move toward reconciliation with our children, but let’s also acknowledge that this is bigger than us.

How we raise our children is important, but there are no guarantees. There is no formula to follow to produce all purple petals.

If your heart is aching over a child (or over a sibling) who has moved away from you, away from God, in rebellion and defiance, hand any shame over to God and allow Him to take it away. Be set free by His perfect mercy and forgiveness.

My heart still aches over my brother. My heart aches for my parents. My heart aches for all those with what we in the church often call “prodigal children” (definitely some Christianese for you!). There are so many moms and dads heartbroken over children who have walked away from our faith. It breaks our hearts. It makes us question ourselves, as parents and as the Church.

Let’s take our questions to God. Let’s pour out our hearts to Him. Let’s trust that He is at work. He knows what He’s doing. He loves these “prodigal children” more than we ever could. We can surrender to Him, regardless of the outcome. His ways, His plans, are bigger and better than ours.

When I consider my own parenting, when I look at my four sons whom I adore, I know that they are already so different from each other. I know that there will be trials ahead in their own lives and in my relationship with each child. Through it all, I am committed to trusting God. I am committed to taking all my fears and failures to Him. I am praying for my sons, knowing that however they “turn out,” God will be holding me in His hand.

For those who long to say, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24), remember that the Father longs to say it, too. As we wait, as we trust, as we hold on to His promises, we can rest in God. We can trust that He is over all. He is in control. We can surrender our desires to Him, knowing that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and while He wants all people to turn to Him (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4), He has also given each one of us free will (John 1:11-13).

We can trust God, no matter how our children “turn out.” We can trust God with the purple petals and with the pink petals. We can walk free with Him… free from shame, free from burden, free from fear.

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