How do we get our kids home from the Far Country?
Jesus told a story about a rebel who ran off to the Far Country, only to end up penniless, friendless, and famished. He must have felt like the ragged young man I saw on a New York City sidewalk holding a cardboard sign which said, “I wanna go home.” Perhaps you are looking with aching heart toward the Far Country, wondering if your wayward kids will ever want to come home. What can you do? Jesus tells you what to do in his story of The Prodigal Son.
The Far Country Defined
St. Augustine said that to be in the Far Country is to be far from the Father’s heart. The wayward boy was already there the moment he longed to break free from his father’s house with its morals, values, and traditions. Though his older brother never left, he was as far from his father’s grace as the younger was from his dad’s holiness. Sadly, the older son was in the Far Country at home. Even if our kids are still in the Father’s House, that doesn’t mean they are close to his heart.
The Inevitability of the Far Country
Sinful human hearts are naturally drawn to the Far Country. We can pray for our children, train them in the ways of the Father’s House, and try to shield them from the Far Country, but, in an age of pervasive social media, it is impossible to shut them off from its seductions.
The faith values we give them are ours. If they are to hold them as their own, they must inevitably put them down. It may be for a short season of doubt or rebellion, or it might last for years. Like the father in Jesus’ story, we weep, watch, wait, and pray for them to pick up our faith values again. But, as painful that is for us, the Far Country is vital for them. Having put down our Faith, if our children pick it up again, it will be theirs. It may not look exactly like ours—but it will be based on their own personal relationship with our heavenly Father.
Let the Far Country do its Work
The father in Jesus’ story waited, allowing the Far Country to do its work. It reduced his boy to almost nothing. It also brought him to his senses [Luke 15:17]. In the muck of the hog pen, he finally realized the goodness he possessed when he was near to the father’s heart. It was at that moment that he made his father’s faith values his own. Only then was he ready to go home again.
We too often try to rescue our kids from being devoured by the Far Country, only to enable them to remain there. We nag, lecture, plead, and threaten only to drive them further away. Unless we allow the Far Country to do its devastating work, they will never come to their senses.
Prepare Ahead of Time for the Return Home
After he came to his senses, the prodigal remembered his father’s love. During his childhood, he saw that grace in action. It was those fond memories that made him trust that his father would welcome him home. Our kids will never come back—to our homes, our values, or even God’s House—unless they know they will be received unconditionally. That only comes from memories of earlier love.
Welcome Them Home Again with Open Arms
Thank God, the self-righteous older son wasn’t at the gate when his younger brother came home. Our daughter, Rachael and grandchildren, Mae and Mira, know this: there is nothing they can do, believe, or become, that will close our hearts or home to them. The time to build this trust is while they are still toddlers, and to reinforce it every time they do something that disappoints us along the way.
Earnest Hemingway was estranged from his parents. Maybe that’s why he wrote a short story about Paco. The young man had a falling out with his father and ran off to Madrid. Finally, his dad put an ad in the city newspaper: “Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning. All is forgiven. Papa.” When the old man arrived at the hotel on Tuesday morning, there were 500 young men waiting in the lobby—all of them named Paco.
Bring them Home
Hemingway rampaged through life, alienated himself from his own children, and ended his days with a self-inflicted shotgun blast. He never left the Far Country. What if he had believed that he could go home again? Yet, he knew that no one would be waiting for him. We at Legacy Imperative believe that the world is full of Paco’s waiting to come home, if only they knew they would be welcomed back with open arms. It is our mission to help millions of people do exactly that!
Dr. Bob Petterson