The story came tumbling out from the heart of a friend at a church picnic. Eyes welling with tears, she shared her story of waiting in the road for her prodigal to return–and she was still waiting. The journey had been long and painful, and she knew well the ache of worry over addiction, the anger mixed with regret, and the heartache of never knowing where (or how!) her child was living. Parents of prodigals walk a hard road. When your child is home, their choices drive you crazy; when they’re out of sight, they’re never out of mind, because the phone could ring with bad news at any moment.
Judy Douglass has walked this same path while also living the fishbowl life of a ministry wife with Cru Global. As she waited in the wilderness of her son Josh’s rebellious years, she relied on God’s love for her boy to carry her over the roughest parts of the journey. When You Love a Prodigal: 90 Days of Grace for the Wilderness is the fruit of hours on her knees in prayer and years spent close to words of Truth, clinging to the promises of God for her wayward son.
Douglass refers to the prodigal wilderness journey as “one of the most transforming aspects of [her] life,” and her collection of ninety devotionals reads like a coming alongside, like an arm around the shoulders and a level gaze that says, “Yes, I know. I know,” to those who still wait in hope. Dipping her pen in the well of God’s sovereignty, she shares hope from prophetic words:
My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.
(Isaiah 46:10 NASB)
Then, sharing the words of the psalmist, she offers hope for redemption and a life beyond destructive patterns, a renewal ushered in by the God who “redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:4)
Finding the Way to a Prodigal Love
Prodigal children do not take God by surprise, and our own imperfect responses are not outside God’s ability to forgive and to fold into the process of redemption. And as parents receive forgiveness for their own repeated sins, grace can overflow to the child who has wronged them, betrayed them, offended them, and wounded them repeatedly.
Studying the names of God enabled Judy to call upon him in very specific ways to meet the need of the moment. When she felt unseen and unheard because answers did not come, she called out to El Roi, the God who sees. When her prodigal was far from home and likely in trouble, she held onto the tender shepherding heart of Jehovah Rohi. Jehovah Shalom was her peace throughout more than a dozen years of waiting and trusting that God would rescue her son from himself.
The word prodigal came into use meaning”extravagant, lavish, abundant, and bountiful.” It has fallen on hard times in our day meaning “a person who is extravagantly wasteful, lavishly reckless, abundantly profligate.” The loving parent of a prodigal can weave a new, whole garment from these rags of terminology, and become, by grace, “one who extravagantly and lavishly, with perseverance, loves a prodigal.”
Thanks be to God for his prodigal love.
Many thanks to Bethany House for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
Grace and Peace,
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