Family Stress on a Prodigal Journey

[Originally Posted at in 2012. The Butterfly and the Stone can be purchased  by clicking the “Books” tab above. ]

end-of-rope-2The cycle continues and we have to figure out what to believe again. He has left yet another “program.” This time it was a community of faith that apparently had expectations for his participation–imagine that. The result is that he is no longer there, and as always, we’re left to try to discern whether it is he or the community at fault. So, now he is going to look for another program–how hard, remains to be seen — and we have to wonder what is going to happen.

This is a common pattern: The butterfly moments when he enters a program, a living situation a new direction—the crash among the rocks when something happens and we’re back to square one. The stress on our hearts becomes unbearable, but bear we must because the love of Christ constrains us.

Meanwhile, we as a couple have to figure out how to talk about it. Should we believe him? Should we be understanding that it wasn’t a good fit? And if I have my doubts, should I say so, knowing that I will sound negative and discouraging? Better not to speak at all. Better to try to find a way to listen and just agree: “Uh-huh. Yeah. That might work…” When in my head the thoughts are screaming, “Here we go again! He quit again and it’s always THEIR fault. Now, we get dragged down then next alley wondering what is going to happen, having to take his word for it when his word has been less reliable as the years have drummed on!”

Stuff it. Don’t say anything. Try to keep silent.

And the all important communication in a marriage suddenly withers like a flower. Where conversation and sharing should be nourishing the relationship in a difficult time, we feel the yawning gap between us as we try to tip-toe through the minefield of words and feelings. All while an adult child jerks the whole thing around by the heart. Jody has the option of tears to release the agony of doubt and disorientation. I find anger welling up inside me, a fire of frustration and weariness. Would that I could quench the flames with tears, but only anger seems to come.

Later, we get the text messages and phone calls with the explanations. There is relief that the channels are still open, although there are times I wish we could just go our separate ways and pray that some time in the future we’ll hear from him when the storm of addiction is safely passed. Alas, love does not permit that. We’re family. We’re in this together come what may.

So, we pray. We pray alone and together. We pray with faithful friends who have committed themselves to love our son right alongside us. We rest in their counsel and let them talk us out of the valley. Nobody should walk the prodigal journey without friends—companions on the road.

This incident is a familiar stop on the trip. Another butterfly dead among the stones, but by the grace of God another will rise. Such is the prodigal journey.

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