Some relationships we have in life are hard and, at times, we have people who choose to walk away. In the Biblical story of the prodigal son, the son wanted his inheritance so he could go out into the world and have fun. His father gave it to him and let him go. When the son had wasted everything and found himself working in the pig pen, he came to himself and returned home to a father who ran to meet him when he saw him returning.
We like that part of the story. But what if the prodigal doesn’t return?
Sometimes we have people in our lives who become the prodigal son. It doesn’t necessary have to be a son. The prodigal to us can be a father, mother, friend or spouse. It isn’t easy to play the role of the father of the prodigal son because waiting is hard and requires patience.
Sometimes the prodigal doesn’t return. That’s the part that hurts us the most. We may keep waiting for the person to come to themselves and return to us but sometimes they never do. Pride can do things to people. Pride is the enemy to restoring relationships. One side waits for the other to give in and the standoff turns into an emotional game of chicken.
As a person who has often found himself in the position of waiting for that prodigal person to return, let me give you some helpful tips.
- Never give up hope. I try to always keep my end of the relationship open and never close the door. This, my friend, is really hard to do. Hope is the only thing that can help you in the waiting. Sometimes hope is all you have.
- Pray. This is something you need to keep going and never let it get old. Pray for the person. Ask God to be your help in these times. I often ask God to talk to the person’s heart for me since there is nothing I can do to help.
- Don’t force the person to come back to you. I know people who like to use manipulation or drama to force people to do what they want but this isn’t a good way to do it. I have always been a person that wants to fix things but sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do to fix it.
- Realize that people make their own choices. People will do what they want to do. If they want to do it bad enough, they will. I have often said that if I sudden became a Powerball winner that people would suddenly want to return to me.
I think one lesson to learn from the story of the Prodigal Son is the reaction of the father when he saw the son returning home. The Bible says that the father RAN to greet the son and even threw a party for him. Are you serious? We are sometimes harsh when someone does decide to return to us in that we want to make them pay the emotional bill for what they have done to us. If we are waiting for someone to return to us, we should be as anxious as the father and cancel any and all debts we feel that they owe us. We shouldn’t be waiting with a list of things to hold them accountable for. If we are waiting for them to come back we need to act like we want them back and forgive the debt. We don’t have to make it an issue.
I will be honest and say that this waiting is not easy. There are days that I don’t feel like running and welcoming the prodigal person to return. We can’t let feelings dictate what we do. Feelings are fickle and not always consistent. They can change with the weather. We have to find a steady place and remain solid in spite of how we feel. We have to anchor ourselves and be solid in the process of waiting.
Someone once told me that it is as simple as just forgive and forget. Well, sometimes it isn’t that simple for some relationships. Both sides have to be willing to do it yet, sadly, it turns into a standoff waiting for the other side to blink. When the prodigal son returned home the father threw a party to celebrate his son’s return. I don’t think there was anything held back. If you really want the prodigal to return, you will celebrate without holding anything over their heads.
So, as you wait, think of what could happen. Cling to the hope you have and never give up.