The cell phone rang at 2:00 AM, waking me from a sound sleep. A call at that hour is never good news and this one didn’t disappoint. It was about my son and the caller gave me news that rocked my world and placed me on the prodigal road along with a multitude of other moms. How did we get here? How is it that we gave our children the greatest treasure possible, how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the compass of His Word for all of life’s journey and they have turned their backs and thrown it away?
I received Jesus at the age of 22. I was not raised in a Christ-following home but my mom gave me what she could. There was a God and He should be honored on Sundays. I have grown up with a religious perspective of God, church on Sunday and the 10 commandments but didn’t learn that a personal relationship with Jesus was possible until graduate school. I was thankful that I knew the Savior prior to meeting my husband and starting a family. I was eager to base my marriage on Biblical principles and raise our family according to the ways of the Lord. We were first generation believers and had no modeling in our own childhood families. After our two sons were born, there were nightly prayers, Sunday school, Christian school and camp. Music and television were closely monitored. The family budget was tight and we watched the Lord provide in miraculous ways. I loved hearing my son’s questions and observations and enjoyed their humor about life. Both of our sons were developing a personal faith in Jesus of their own! As we sailed through childhood and then the teen years, I privately congratulated myself that we avoided the usual heartbreaks of other families. We were raising our kids the right way!
When other parents hit rough patches in child rearing I thought….”those parents are getting the fruit of their labors”. What do you expect if your family is worshipping soccer on Sunday instead of the Savior”? I was so judgmental! Many years later, I learned that the issue is not so black and white. Godly parents can have rebellious adult children who don’t honor the Lord and His commands. Look at God, the perfect parent. He had a broken heart over Adam and Eve and Judas to name a few.
God was and continues to humble me. After both sons graduated from Bible College and worked in the youth ministry, I thought I was home free. They are grown and walking with the Lord. Now, I will enjoy them as young adults and await marriage and grandchildren. Was I in for a shock! The enemy set his trap and little by little, my sons began to follow worldly pleasures.
So after the 2:00am phone call, there have been a series of events that have caused a long painful road of broken dreams and unanswered prayers. At times the sense of failure, shame and brokenness has been more that my mother’s heart can bear. Although my husband was heart-broken, I noticed that he did not experience the prodigal journey the same way I did. For moms it’s a deeply personal sense of shame, brokenness and failure. The mother-child bond, given by the Lord to protect and nurture a little one to adulthood can be overwhelmingly painful when living with a prodigal. Many times I would meet other moms in church or out shopping and face the inevitable question, “how are the kids”? and I would raise my mask and respond, “oh, they are doing just great”. I hated it! How did we get to this place? Where did I go wrong? Where are you God and why aren’t you answering my prayers?
As a Christian leader, I have been aware that there are many hurting moms whose children are not following the Lord. Now I had joined the sisterhood in the shame, grief and isolation, the overwhelming sense of failure. H.O.P.E for Moms of Prodigals was born.
I realized that the Body of Christ provides connection and support for moms of toddlers and teens. But when the child grows to adulthood, a mom is on her own. If that adult child makes poor choices and turns her back on the ways of the Lord, the journey can be lonely and devastating.
H.O.P.E. is the expectation that God is at work in secret places. The evidence of His hand often appears suddenly in an atmosphere of faith, trust and belief. There is so much of this journey that is out of our control, while we wait with hopeful expectancy. But there ARE things we can do. There ARE strategies for prayer. There ARE mindsets that will ease the pain and we share the journey with other sisters.
H is for humility. We have spent a lifetime loving, nurturing, comforting and praying for our child. When our child hits the rough patches in life, we attempted to smooth it over, to fix it. But we can’t fix this. Our adult child must walk through this one on his or her own. And so in humility, we release our child to the ONE who has all power, all knowledge and loves our child more than we ever will. In humility, we admit we don’t have the answers and cling to HIS promises. His ways are greater than our ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
O is for obedience. We cling to the Lord’s Word and His presence. We listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit. We ask the Lord to show us what needs to be change in our own hearts. We confess sin to the Lord and to our adult child as the Holy Spirit leads. Whatever He says to do, we do it. We keep the love line open with our child, sending texts and cards, assuring him of our love. We keep our commitments. We serve the church and build His Kingdom. We trust God and do good, just as Jesus did, led by His Holy Spirit. We fight against the temptation to isolate, to complain about where is God in this situation, to have an anger that slides into bitterness. We are “no matter what” sisters and we are determined to trust God and be obedient in all things. No matter what the outcome, let the Lord find us obedient to His ways and will! If you love me, keep my commands. (John 14:15)
P is for praise and prayer. We are aware that our words have power. And as the enemy desires that the prodigal journey would draw us away from God, the Lord bids us to draw close. He stirs us to change our perspective and adjust our focus. Our focus must come off our adult child and on to the Lord.
- Set your mind on things above, not on things of earth ~Colossians 3:2. Our focus must remain fixed on our precious Savior who is mighty and loves greatly and works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose ~Romans 8:28.
- We are to praise Him no matter what and lift up our adult child in continual prayer ~1 Thessalonians 5:17. Pray with THANKSGIVING. Pray without ceasing ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
- Let’s encourage our sisters on those days when the pain is great, the discouragement is overwhelming, the future looks hopeless…do not weary in well doing for in due season you will reap if you faint not~Galatians 6:9.
I am reminded of the words of one mom who gave me this Word from the Lord. As she was crying out on behalf of her child, the Lord spoke to her heart…”release your child to me, stop praying and start thanking me for what I’m doing in secret places”. I walked away, pondering that word. Stop praying? Really? Then, I realized that to “thank the Lord for what he was doing in secret places” was a position of FAITH. Prayer is so much more powerful when faith is mixed with the prayer. Thanksgiving primes the pump of faith. And so we practice praising in the storm and praying continually with an attitude of faith.
E is for expectation. What would become of me if I had not expected the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living~Psalm 27:13. Any day! Suddenly, our breakthrough will come. And the Lord will find us in faith, believing, trusting, expecting. Hallelujah!
Are you a mom with a prodigal? Do you know a mom who is walking the prodigal road? While we can’t control their choices, we can control our response to their choices! Join us as we respond with H.O.P.E., encouraging one another, persevering and awaiting the homecoming! May the God of hope fill you with all hope and peace as your trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit~Romans 15:13.
Denise Ridley is the founder of Waters Edge Ministries. She is a speaker for various ministries, including Women of the Word and hosts a Christian radio program that airs in VT and MA. Her professional career includes being an Educational Therapist, Admissions Coordinator, Director of Guidance and Vocational Rehabilational Counselor. She holds an MA in Deaf Education and a M.Ed in Rehabilitation Counseling. Denise is married, with 2 grown sons and 4 grandchildren.