I have been thinking a lot this Lent about what it means to come home. At the beginning of Lent, we often read the story of the Prodigal Son, a story of rebellion and pride, followed by the father’s mercy and overwhelming forgiveness. Lent is a season when God the Father is calling us home.
As mothers, the image of the Prodigal Son can be multi-faceted. I find it easier these days to relate to the father in the story. We know that no matter what our children may do, where they may wander, we will always welcome them home. For those of us parenting teens and adult children, the opportunities to offer our children grace and a safe space to land multiply. We want them to choose faith, to know the unconditional love of God, to choose what is true, and good, and beautiful, but we cannot choose for them. We must cling to our faith and to the example of the father in the story, and ask the Lord for the strength to trust, and to wait, and to forgive.
But as I look at my younger children, I realize they have so much to teach me about being the younger son. They are at an age when their first instinct is to run to the arms of the father, which for them, is us. This domestic church, this home we are building, is their safe place and the first place they experience the love, grace, and unconditional forgiveness of God. When they fail, they cry out to us to forgive them; when they are scared, they run to us to comfort them. Somewhere along the way, we grow out of this instinct. We start to take on the rebellion of the older son, and say, we can do it on our own; we know better; we don’t need the protection of home. Our job is to teach our children that as they grow in independence from us, they must grow in dependence on the Heavenly Father. When my teens clam up and won’t tell me what is bothering them, I always say, “That’s ok. You don’t have to tell me, but please talk to Jesus about it.” They laugh a little and say, “Okay, mom,” but I really mean it. They must learn to bring their cares to the foot of the cross, to bring their shame and their squandered wealth and ask for forgiveness, mercy, and shelter.
We, too, are the younger son. I constantly wander from home and don’t realize it. I know there are countless areas in my life where I have said with my actions, “I don’t need you, Lord.” How often do we as mothers think that if we don’t do it all, then who will? We carry a burden that we have often fashioned with our own hands. What lies are we listening to? God is calling us to let him into all the areas of our lives. He is calling us to bring our failures and our fears, our insecurities, our talents, our treasure, all of who we are and find his forgiveness, his grace, his mercy, and his unwavering love. He is calling us to come home.