Your longing for a warm, close, emotionally safe relationship with your son is completely understandable. God designed moms and dads to feel this way about their children, and when the relationship doesn’t turn out as they’d hoped and expected it’s only natural that they should be grieved. At the same time, you’re wise to set boundaries, enforce limits, and communicate clear messages to your son about Christian values and biblical standards of behavior. You need to find creative ways of holding that position while also assuring him of the constancy of your love.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) can provide you with an instructive model in this regard. As you may remember, the father in Jesus’ story didn’t assume responsibility for changing his son’s heart and mind. He understood that there were only two things he could do in response to the young man’s ill-advised choices: pray and wait. He prayed and waited with patience until the son finally “came to himself” (verse 17). And when at last the boy came home freely confessing the error of his ways, the father “ran” to meet him “while he was still a great way off” (verse 20). You should be ready to respond with the same degree of eager love and compassion at the first sign of repentance on his part.
Is there anything at all that you can do to help him start moving in that direction – to open a crack, however small, in the wall of his resistance to God and his Christian upbringing? Not directly. But perhaps you could enlist the assistance of some objective third party. Is there anyone you know to whom your son might be inclined to listen? A family friend, perhaps, or a relative, or a pastor or member of your church? An older male acting in the role of a mentor – a man your son trusts and whom he doesn’t perceive as a threat – could be of great help to you in this situation. The girlfriend’s parents might be another possibility. Anyone who can speak one-on-one with your son, providing him with carefully considered food for thought and listening compassionately to his responses, could play an important role in opening up the lines of communication.
Keep in mind that the Prodigal Son wasn’t able to “come to himself” until he had come to the end of himself. It’s possible that your son has not yet experienced a sufficient amount of personal loss to be willing to listen to anyone. If and when he reaches a point where he is open to re-evaluating his life-choices, you can encourage him to call us. Christian counselor referrals are available through the ministry of Focus on the Family.
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Loving Your Prodigal