Browsing Amazon’s virtual shelves, I stumbled (if, in a virtual world, one may be said to have “stumbled”) upon a book that immediately went into my cart. It wasn’t something I had specifically searched for, but I knew I had to have it.
I purchased the book — without hesitation — based on the reputation of (and my respect for) the author, Ruth Bell Graham (late wife of Dr. Billy Graham). She is someone I’d “known” — though not via personal acquaintance — for as long as I can remember.
The book, entitled Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, offers the subtitle “Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait.” The book’s potential drew me. With Graham as the author, I thought — hoped? — it might contain some cogent spiritual insights for this prickly — but not uncommon — parent/child quandary. My presumption was if anyone could speak with authority on the subject, it might be Graham who has long acknowledged two of her children were prodigals, what she calls “spiritual wanderers.”
I’ve listened to sermons covering the Gospel account (Luke 15:11-32) … read and studied the passage myself … read Henri Nouwen‘s The Return of the Prodigal (an introspective personal meditation that uses Luke’s account and the Rembrandt painting from which Nouwen’s book takes its name.) I wanted (needed) Graham’s perspective also.
The small volume (just over 150 pages) surprises. The first five chapters tell of five prodigals who returned to the Father. Only one chapter represents Graham lineage and that tale is written by Graham’s eldest daughter Gigi. The second section is a collection of wise words culled from poetry, hymns and quotes related to estrangement from both God and earthly bonds.
It’s difficult for me to fairly assess the book. The most penetrating words were the quote that follows the title page:
Home is that place from which
when a man has departed,
he is a wanderer until he returns.
— Sir William Blackstone
I think I may have expected too much; I’m a mom and the slightest rift in my family begs for immediate attention, healing and resolution! (Had Ruth Bell Graham avoided these crushing emotions while blithely awaiting the homecomings of her two prodigals? Not likely, but she doesn’t dwell on it.)
In Luke’s retelling of Jesus’ parable, Mom is absent. She’s not there when the tale begins: “A certain man had two sons …” She’s not there when the father apportions inheritance to one son who hastens out the door. She most definitely isn’t present (tut-tutting her errant son) as he wallows in pig slop.
W H E R E I S S H E ? !
One explanation: she’s deceased. The hyper-spiritual explanation: she’s praying. [To borrow from SNL’s Church Lady — Now isn’t that special?]
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an advocate of prayer — I believe God graciously attends our petitions. BUT, I’m a do-something — anything! — mom which probably explains more than I care to admit about this matter of waiting … in silence … swallowing my opinion … believing the prodigal will “come to his senses.”
Jesus’ parable of the prodigal eloquently paints the beauty of Father-Son love and reconciliation. I have come to believe Jesus intended to be equally eloquent about that which He omitted.
So I wait … on Him.