I've heard it told from many angles and it never gets old. It's the story from Luke 15 about the prodigal son - the son who wanders away from his father, takes his inheritance (basically cashes in on it before his dad is even dead), lives a wild and crazy life for awhile before he crashes and burns and then finally comes back to his senses. When he comes home, his father is there waiting for him with open arms. The brother, who never left, is not as happy to see him but is angry because he feels the mercy and grace his father shows his wayward brother is unwarranted and undeserved.
The angles I've heard recently on this story have been fascinating. One missionary pointed out a few months back that the eldest brother was responsible for running after the wayward son - but he never went after him. Apparently, that was the tradition with the Jewish people then - the eldest brother was responsible for the younger siblings in that way. His point was - why didn't he go after him? And...why aren't we going after our prodigal brothers and sisters? I thought that was so powerful.
I also remember reading about how the story should not be called "The Prodigal Son" but instead should be called "The Faithful Father". I couldn't agree more. The picture of the father running toward his son with open arms as he came home after being gone for so long and being so ungrateful and selfish is just overwhelming to me.
But one angle I've never heard in all the years I've heard this story shared is what keeps coming back to me. Where was the mother in this story? I talked with my mentor about this before - we both wondered the same thing. As mothers, our hearts break as we think about how devastated she must have been. Why on earth would God leave her out of this story? If it were my son, I would be pacing the floor, praying non-stop and would be completely devastated. I wondered if she was doing the same thing? Not even a mention of her, though. Nothing. I wondered why.
Until yesterday. I prayed and asked the Lord for some insight into why He didn't give her any face-time in this story. As a mother, it almost upset me that she was not mentioned and I was honest with Him about that. I think God appreciates when we are honest with Him and He definitely doesn't shy away from the tough questions. I wanted to know how she handled it! I wanted to know if she was as desperate and scared for her son as I would be! I wanted to know if she begged her husband to do more, prayed the same prayer over and over again or if she ran after him at all. What did she do?
Then the answer came to me so gently during prayer. Perhaps the mother was not mentioned because she was doing exactly what God told her to do in this devastating situation? She kept quiet, surrendered her son to the Lord and submitted to her husband's leadership in this matter. You see...we moms can't take this kind of pain. It's just unthinkable. It's devastating and it's more than we can bear. The good news is, we don't have to take this pain on ourselves. God tells us to give Him our burdens. He tells us to submit to our husbands. And He doesn't do that so we will be a doormat or so we will be lazy and not handle things; He does this so we will be protected.
Perhaps in quiet strength, the mother continued to look after her home and her children. She probably stayed busy and continued to run her errands. I'm sure she prayed for her son - probably constantly. I'm sure she had her moments of weakness and tears. But perhaps her strength was in her submission and her trust in her God to bring her son home.
And we all know the end of the story. Her wayward son did come home. And as the father in the story was preparing the feast, I can't help but wonder if the mother was on her knees in the background - thanking God for bringing her wayward son home and giving Him glory for this precious reunion.
Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24 (Message)
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:1-4 (NIV)