Monday, December 23, 2013

Giving Them Over

Romans 1:24:  God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity...

Romans 1:26:  God gave them over to degrading passions...

Romans 1:28:  God gave them over to a depraved mind...

God gave them over... and over... and over.  I think Paul wanted to make a point here!  When something is repeated three times, it's important it's time to sit up and take notice.  I studied those verses intently when I was a teen.  Our church's Bible Quiz team won first place at nationals the year we studied the book of Romans, so it's one that sticks with me pretty well.  I knew it inside and out.  But even though I knew it, I didn't understand it.  Oh, I thought I did.  I read about the wrath of God in Romans 1:18 and somehow I interpreted the verses later in the chapter as a show of God's wrath against unrighteous people.  It does speak of his wrath against their sin, no doubt about that.  As the parent of a prodigal child, though...  with the path I have walked... the path I am walking...  I suddenly see those verses in another light.

As a parent of a prodigal child, all I want to do is rush in and save my child.  I want to rescue her and spare her the consequences of her own decisions.  I want to prevent her from the behaviors that I know will only end in heartache.  But deep inside I know a hard truth.  Even if I could control her actions, it's her heart that needs saving.  Controlling her actions won't do that.  There's a reason the father let his prodigal son leave with his inheritance.

Our dog is a habitual counter-surfer.  We have a locking trash can; we store bread and other goodies out of reach; and we crate him when we leave for even a little while.  If we don't, he will find a way to get into trouble. I frequently laugh that, "He's a good dog... as long as all other options are removed."  Putting him in the crate curbs his behavior, but has done nothing to change the fact that he will listen to his stomach over his head every time!  I know I'm not changing his heart.  

Even knowing that, part of me still longs to control my daughter's actions; to prevent the things that I know will bring heartache.  Deep inside, though, I know that I really want more than to control her actions. I want her to come to the place where she makes those decisions on her own – even when all other options have not been removed.  I want her heart to be changed.

That's where it gets hard.  A heart change requires pain. We will never turn around if there is nothing that convinces us that our current direction is unprofitable. I know, then, that keeping my child from the consequences of her decisions will ultimately only keep her from learning... keep her from turning.  If I rush in and save her, she will never experience the pain that will cause her to grow... to turn around and change direction (repent).  So... like the father of the prodigal son, I step back and watch through my tears.  It is not because I'm angry or full of wrath... but because I want nothing more than for her to realize the emptiness of the path she is choosing.  

When you step back and let your child face the consequences of her own decisions... when you give her over to her own decisions... and your heart breaks with the pain of it... that's when you know that parenting isn't for cowards; that love is tough.  In that moment, too, I think you understand those verses in Romans 1 just a little bit more.  I think you understand God just a little bit more.   He gives us over... giving us the opportunity to realize the emptiness and pain of doing life our way...  giving us the opportunity to turn around. 

As the parent of a prodigal child, I find comfort in that.  I find comfort in knowing that I'm following a God who has been there, done that.  It gives me hope to follow His example... and comfort in knowing that He totally understands the pain involved in the giving.  Giving them over.