I wonder what the son who betrayed his father’s love and provision, left home squandered it all and came back seeking restoration was like the years before he decided to leave. I wonder if he resisted his father’s love and discipline. I wonder if he threatened that as soon as he was of age, he was out of there!
Obviously I don’t know. And I’m sure scholars who know these things could give me a better historical idea of what a father and son in the ancient Middle East might have typically been like in their culture. But I thought about the prodigal the other day when my oldest son, who will be 15 on Easter Sunday (which also happens to be April Fool’s day) scowled at my every instruction and resignedly breathed out a, “Yes, mom” instead of an argument.
He is the spice of my life and is also the reason I have so many frowning wrinkles in my forehead. My April Fool’s day baby has been testing the boundaries and seeking a thrill since before he turned one.
As an infant, he wouldn’t be held and cuddled. I bought a rocking chair while I was still pregnant with him, but the only time he was still in my arms in that chair was when he was nursing. Once I tried to hold and rock him and he squirmed and wiggled and strained to raise his head. I laughed and starting tickling him and within minutes he was asleep. This boy didn’t want to be rocked to sleep he wanted to be tickled to sleep. Before he turned one he managed to figure out how to escape his crib. And when we decided to put his crib mattress on the floor for his safety he wouldn’t stay in his room at night.
This boy ripped out his first tooth gnawing on a bar stool before he could walk. He fell down a flight of stairs when he was 2 because he was curious about the door we had told him, “No” to. Everywhere we went I worried that he would run in front of a car, or jump in a pool of water or fall off a cliff because he had no fear and boundaries seemed to say, “Come here and test me!”
As I’ve watched my son’s personality come to light I laugh at God’s timing in making April Fool’s day the day he would be born. No mom wants to call their son a fool, but I’m pretty sure that the 15 year old, impulsive, curious, pubescent, strong-willed boy is pictured in the dictionary as the definition of fool. And to be fair, right behind it is the 15 year old, shallow, silly, emotional, pubescent, self-focused girl (that was me at 15). This child loves to make people laugh. He seeks thrills, often without thinking first. He’s curious, especially when there are boundaries. He opens his mouth and at least 5 minutes of senseless arguing about E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G comes out before being corrected for the offensive nonsense that just spilled out or he stops himself and walks away.
I worry about him. I know worrying does nothing to help him or me, but I can’t stop the downpour of stomach acid and tears that come with my daily interactions with this young man I would endure years of obstinance and resistance for.
The other day he looked me in the eye and said, “All I know is as soon as I’m 18, I’m out of here!” He was angry. He’s tired of running into his parents boundaries. And he’s not ready to willingly bend his knee to God or his parents. He’ll acquiesce. He’ll do what we ask after lots of resistance, for now. But the will to run hard into a wall is strong with this one.
That’s hard on a mom. And a dad. But I think it’s hard on a mom even more. I think the dad can let the resistance increase his resolve a little easier than with the mom. With the mom, well, “…a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.”
I do have hope though. I have hope for the fool because I have been, and still show myself to be, the fool. God broke through my foolishness and gave me wisdom and a heart to love him. He’s done that with many an infamous fool. Nebuchanezzar. Jonah. Paul. Peter…
It’s fitting that April fool’s day is Easter Sunday. Before Christ rose in our hearts and we saw a glimpse of his worth and pledged our hearts to him, we were foolish, stiff-necked, rebellious, children of wrath. We thought we knew better than the One who made us and we were going to do life our own way, thank you very much! Psalm 107 poetically tells what some of us did with our lives when we gave our Maker the finger and set off to do life better than He. We found ourselves ruined and He brought us to our senses like the prodigal son. Then we turned to him, receiving lavish unearned favor and love.
Before my son was born I sought God, asking Him for a scripture that I could cling to and pray over his life. The verse that resonated with me was Psalm 119: 73.
Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Psalms 119:73
This little sentence has been my hope over the years for this strong-willed son of mine. He didn’t make himself. God did. And although right now he has no understanding and is like a brutish and ignorant beast (just as I was) before God, the same God who made him is able to give him understanding. He is able to take our foolish ignorance and make us wise. He’s able to make us actually love God’s boundaries and embrace his ways as beautiful.
Before the prodigal left home and chased his self-loving pleasures, he probably spent years chomping at the bit to do so, much to his father and mother’s grief. But the love of the father brought him to his senses.
I don’t want my son to go through ruin. But I do want him to see the love of God in Christ for himself. I want him to want to submit to this God who gave him life. And so, I must trust the one who made him- who knows how to save him.
On Easter Sunday, lots of fools will gather in buildings around the world to worship the one who took them from being brutish and ignorant beasts of rebellion, to fools for Christ’s sake. We, who once gave God the finger with our lives, now fall prostrate in awe of the one who calls us sons and daughters. We came to him filthy and defiled like the prodigals we are and he embraced us and set a new garment of acceptance and worth on us and has called us his own children. A bunch of fools in love with this Jesus we’ve never seen. A bunch of fool’s taking up our crosses daily and following him. A bunch of fool’s turning from the temporary pleasures of sin and enduring suffering for the glory that is set before us in being united with the Father who has graciously forgiven, restored and loved us.
This is the foolishness this mom is called to. Somehow, in God’s wisdom, to take what is foolish to a strong-willed son and endure, trusting in the one who takes the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
‘We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. ‘ 1 Corinthians 4:10,12-13
‘For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; ‘ 1 Corinthians 1:18,20-21,25,27