In this day and age I think almost everything has to have a caveat to prevent misunderstanding. And then of course, even a caveat can go wrong and require its own clarity. Oh vicious cycle of confusion!
But for the sake of what I am writing, I am defining "prodigal" as in Luke 15, "The Parable of the Prodigal Son." Meaning: I have a son, whom I love, who has rejected our family's beliefs, values, and faith; and who if he could, would, like the younger son of Luke 15, take his inheritance and live for himself in "reckless living."
Now, lest you think every day is fraught with hostility and gospel shouting sessions, it is not. Most days in fact, this son is polite, respectful, funny, and helpful. Most days he does not walk around glaring and declaring, "I have rejected God. Get out of my way!" I have come to mark those days as common grace.
But on the un-most days, his words and life practices declare a reversal of how Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven." His prayer more closely resembles the following: If there is a heaven, great is my name. My kingdom come. My will be done. On earth as it is in my imagination."
As you might imagine, when that prayer has played on the reel in his head enough times, when life in the "kingdom as we know it called the home" does not go as he imagines it should, then there is quite definitely a stormy time for all. This reverse kingdom situation extends into school life and his views on entertainment, into his spare time activities and into his views for his future. He endures authority only for the idea that eventually he believes he will live without any at all.
On either set of days, with varying degrees of success, I have learned, painfully, that I am responsible for how I live out the gospel before him. Constantly my own sin of my own views of "personal kingdom" are confronted as I live under authority. When I complain about things not going my way, do I remember to think and so acknowledge that God's sovereignty in the situation is actually my best place? When I am frustrated by another's actions or choices, do I remember that I am responsible to forgive as I have been forgiven? When I am discontented with the providence full on my plate, do I confess that what I have is good and sufficient because God has provided?
I'm in the moms' group that is quick to say how much I have learned about the love of God for us once I had children. Yes, me too! I've learned so much. <insert motherly glow>
But the other side of that group's experience is how much I have learned about my own sin and God's forgiveness and grace for me once I had children. And while I would never, ever, never, have thought that living with a prodigal son would be for my best, it is. A small part of the ongoing redemption picture is that as God works through all things, these hard things, He is growing me in prayer, in practice, in thanksgiving, in earnestness for the gospel, in humility of grace, and in conviction of personal sin.
A New York minute is too slow when I think how quickly I would take all that I have learned for myself to see my son believe. But for right now, God has not given that choice. I can, however, rest in, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
Yes, Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.