Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Spring Break

This week is spring break at my son's college. He's spending it down in Florida. So I thought it was a strange and somewhat eerie coincidence that one of the readings in church last Sunday was Jesus' "Parable of the Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32). After asking for his share of his father's inheritance, he gathered up all he had and went to a distant country. And, as you may remember, while there, away from his dad's supervision, the prying eyes of neighbors, and the moral influence of his society, he went crazy. Sounds kind of like spring break to me.

As for me, I never did the spring break thing, but from everything I've heard it's a bit scary to me as the father of a college-aged son. When you couple youthful desires, freedom from moral constraints, and our youthful tendency to live for the thrill of the moment, with no thought for future consequences --well -- that's a dangerous combination. I'm not overly worried about my son getting into trouble; he's on a choir tour. In fact, if he stays in choir through his college years, he'll be spending every spring break on a choir tour. (It's not that problems don't come up on choir tours, but when they do, there's at least some faculty supervision for him and his friends.)

That makes me think about the rules my wife and I set for our son. He was never the type to push the boundaries, but what if he was? Did his mom and I sit down in calm times and explain to him that we set these boundaries to protect him, rather than to coerce behavior from him?

When I taught Catechism class I made a big deal of the Fourth Commandment, "Honor your father and your mother." We discussed the kinds of rules parents make -- and why they drive us crazy. Curfews, driving and dating are just a few of the areas parents try to control. Seems like they just don't trust us at all, and the only thing they're trying to shield us from is fun. I'm sure that's how the prodigal son thought about his father.

Then I grew up and watched a number of my friends and acquaintances cast those boundaries aside. I watched them dash off through minefields, which sometimes sadly exploded in their faces.

I've known a girl or two who partied a little too hard on spring break, and a few weeks later found out she had an unplanned pregnancy and joint custody with a total stranger. God brought repentance and many blessings to these mothers and children, but the moms paid a pretty steep price for their week of freedom and fun, and their children began life without the stability God wanted them to know: a mother and father living together in marriage.

So I ask myself, what would I do if I was the prodigal's father? What if my son landed himself in deep trouble over spring break? Would I be able to cast aside my pride and embrace him? Would I let him know and experience a father's unconditional love and grace?

He should. Because that's the love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance I continually receive when I come back in repentance to my Heavenly Father.

The prodigal son, the wayward daughter, how we must all admit to this designation when it comes to our rebellion against the One who made us, preserves us, and keeps us steadfast until the day of His return.

Raising kids is no easy task. May God give us strength to ... patiently and lovingly ... speak the words we need to, when we need to, and how we need to.

Got any life-changing spring break experiences to pass along -- good, bad or otherwise? If so, you can share your thoughts by clicking here.

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