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A Letter to my Adult Prodigal



To my Beloved Child,

There are always two sides to every story.  Two perspectives, if you will.  Before you read anything else, know this:

I love you. I will always love you. Until the day I die, nothing will change that, and I do mean nothing.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.  It’s something you may not understand now, but one day, you’ll get it.  You may not be inclined to trust or believe me on much these days, but at some time in the future it’ll make sense.

Right now though, from your side, through the lens of your world, my love for you probably feels like this:

Disappointment.  You think that because you’ve made choices I strongly disagree with, you’re the disappointment, not your actions and behaviors.  Nope, sorry again.  I’ve never been sorry that you were born.  Or that you are my child. (Okay, maybe that one time when you were 5 weeks old and I hadn’t slept all 5 weeks, I might have fleetingly wished those 9 months lasted 11 instead.)  YOU are not the disappointment. Seriously though, I am upset that the values we tried to impart to you have meant so little in your life lately.  It saddens us that everything we tried to teach you, you’ve pretty much thrown out the window.  Putting Christ first, the importance of family…  It’s baffling that the child who saw so much of the world in black and white has let culture define a world where there’s only grey.  No good or evil, just… “do what makes you happy.”  Not, “do what’s right.”  This brings me to….

Sadness.  We raised you to believe that actions have consequences, and unfortunately, some of the choices you’ve made will have repercussions.  It’s one of the hardest parts of being a parent – if not the worst part – letting those consequences happen.  I’m just sad that you’ll have to feel the pain of those ramifications.  If I seem to look at you with sadness, that’s why. I know those choices will cause you heartache at some point.  It hurts me when you hurt and I can’t fix it like I did when you were 3.  The society we live in tells you that things will be fine if “you do you,” but honestly?  It doesn’t work that way in the real world.  People are people and not everyone can be happy all the time. Sometimes one person’s happiness means someone else’s sorrow.  Not always, but… enough.  Regrettably, because not every joy can be shared by all, you might feel…

Condemnation.  Because children always look to their parents for approval, when I disapprove, you feel condemnation. You sometimes feel guilt even when you believe you’ve done nothing wrong.  (That’s a God-thing by the way, you just don’t recognize it yet.) It’s also a variation on the classic “My mom only had look at me and I felt her wrath” thing.  You probably hear it in my voice when you tell me something you know will bother me.  You see it in my eyes.  Read between the lines of my emails and texts.  You want praise and instead you feel judgment.  I’ve always been a “heart on my sleeve” kind of person, so it’s been hard for me to hide the sadness and disappointment.  Together, those feel like one giant ball of condemnation to you, though, don’t they?  Guilt is a very powerful emotion, and much of the time, we feel it because we know we’ve made mistakes.

So what do you do?

Keep us all at a distance.  Like the toddler who’s caught with chocolate all over his mouth and a cookie in his hand, yet insists he didn’t get into the cookie jar, you think that if you don’t have conversations, won’t come home, or don’t want us visiting you, you won’t feel our apparent judgment.  You’re probably playing up the “what if’s” in your head more being absent from us than if you let us into your life.  All those nights as a teenager when you were late coming home, the “what if’s” were always worse in my head than reality.  What if you crashed your car?  What if you had a flat tire? What if you met someone who sucked you into doing harmful things?  Those never literally came to fruition, so my guess is, you think the worst of us and it’s easy to make us the bad guys instead of recognizing that you are sinning.  Yes, I’m going to say it: sinning.  But you know what you’d learn if you were around us?  That we own up to being sinners ourselves.  We’re not any better than you, and we’re not any worse.  Our sins may be different, but a sin is a sin, and a sinner is a sinner.  The only real difference is that we know and try to take responsibility for our sins.  We know that there’s only one hope for our sinful nature – Jesus Christ, who died so that your sin – and mine – would be erased.  You don’t want to have that conversation because you’ve turned your back on Him.  And once you’ve turned your back on Him, it’s oh, so much easier to turn your back on everyone that loves Him – and you – as well.  When you don’t have conversations with us, it’s easy to…

Judge and condemn us. I may not have been the best mother, your father, the best father.  I know I didn’t have all the answers.  My mistakes were more numerous than the stars. And you probably don’t want to hear that I “did the best I could.” But everything I did as a parent, I did only with hope and love for your best. Yes, you might have done __________ differently, or you don’t like the way I __________.

I get it.

I was a child myself before I was a parent. I’ve likely shared some of the same frustrations as you about my own parents at one time or another.

I remember once when you were 14 or so, and your younger brother was doing something that you felt was dumb.  Just… dumb.  Something like watching a certain cartoon series, or thinking that Captain Underpants was the coolest, and you couldn’t understand why he thought whatever it was was so great.  I remarked to you that only a few short years ago, you’d felt equally about that very. same. thing.  “But,” you replied, “I know so much more now than I knew then.”


I probably wouldn’t make all the same choices today knowing what I know now.  How they would have affected us.  Affected you, and your brother and sister.  Many I might still make.  But I didn’t have the information available then that I have now.  So holding my feet to the fire because I made decisions based on what limited information I had then that perhaps hurt or caused unhappiness to you is pointless.  I hope you can understand this point, because someday, you’re going to look back at these choices you’re making now, and realize that you didn’t have all the best knowledge then either to make the most informed choices for the rest of your life.

But hey – the good news is, God will use it anyway.

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  Isaiah 55:11

Right now though, these are all just words to you.  One day though, you’ll understand.

Until then,  I’ll keep waiting, watching, hoping and praying.

I love you.




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0 thoughts on “A Letter to my Adult Prodigal”

  • Oh, Christine, I feel your pain and share in it. One of my prodigals, my firstborn, has returned to the fold. We have a wonderful relationship and she and her husband are raising their family to know and love God. My second child walked away from God in his teens and hasn’t returned. We have a good relationship, but he’s so far from God it hurts. My youngest is walking with God in her own way. But I fear she’s involved in a cult-like church. I’m just thankful she’s still seeking Him and am praying God leads her to His truth and a healthy church environment. Do we ever stop praying, hoping, loving for our kids? Never. God’s arm is long and strong and He’s going to reach them. He who began a good work in them is going to carry it to completion (Phil. 1:6). I’m praying for both our kids. And thanks for this post.

    • It gives me hope knowing you’ve had one “come back.” We are in touch with our son, but only on a limited basis. I think it’s easier for him to avoid us than deal with that feeling of disappointment. And prayer, and love… they’re the only things I can do! Praying for yours too…

    • It gives me hope to know that you’ve had one “come back.” We are in touch with ours, but it’s not a whole relationship, just very limited. I’m sure that’s because it’s easier to avoid us than deal with the feelings of disappointment and/or guilt. But hey – it’s something! Believe me, prayer and love are the only things I can do. And I’m praying for yours too…

  • I think nearly every parent with teenage or older offspring can relate to this post. You have put into words what we all have felt. Did you mail this letter?

    • Andrea, I haven’t. Yet. I do have another half of it that I’ll post in the near future. Right now, the only instructions I’ve received from God are just to love him. I’m not sure that this is the right time to share it with him, but when God lays it on my heart (as He did with me writing it) I will!

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