Until recently, I have not thought about deeply loving a spiritually lost individual as a wilderness experience. I know now, as I continue to love prodigals, particularly those of my biological family, that the journey can feel quite dry. Sometimes it seems like you plant and water only to see the life snuffed out and then you go back to planting and watering again.
What I am starting to learn is, “God wants me to live free.” Living free means that I have to release the illusion of control, that I cannot attempt to play Savior in other people’s lives, that I can walk in obedience with the understanding that God is sovereign and he is at work to accomplish he good purposes in the world. Therefore, I can walk in faith and hope without anxiety, stress, or losing sleep. When I prayerfully rest in this reality, I receive God’s peace. This is also a lesson my friend, Judy Douglass, has come to understand through her wilderness experience of loving a prodigal. She shares wisdom here:
I’ve lived in a wilderness for 20 years.
It was 20 years ago that God sent a 9-year-old boy into our lives, first as a foster child, then as our adopted son.
When he walked into our home, it seemed that chaos replaced peace. We thought those first years were challenging, but they were not the deep woods wilderness. That began with middle school. The next 10 years of a dark journey included school failure and discipline, gangs, drugs, alcohol, sex, recklessness, rebellion, theft, lies, juvenile detention, accidents, jail…
Slowly we have found our way out of those deep woods, but he finds it hard to entirely escape the darkness.
A major part of my journey with him has been on my knees. Hundreds of other “lovers of prodigals” have joined me in a praying community. I have written to them on a regular basis and the letters I wrote on Rest have been compiled into a small ebook, covering 10 pathways to Rest in the Wilderness.
This is one of my favorites pathways: There Is Rest in Release
You probably know the story of the monkey who wanted the banana in the bottom of the jar. He thrust his hand right in there and grabbed it–and tried to pull it out.
It was stuck. He pulled and pulled, but could not get his hand, holding on to that banana, out of that jar.
Until he let go of the fruit.
I tell it another way. When I hold on to something I want, I make a fist to the Lord. Not only does that speak defiance to Him, but it also effectively closes up the opportunity for Him to work in me. He would have to pry open every finger–to remove what shouldn’t be there and/or to put in my hand what He wants to give me.
Oh, how those of us who love prodigals need to hear this. How we hold on to that loved one, and to our desires for her life! We plead with her and with God to do what we want. We want to be in control. We manipulate, coerce, bribe–we will do almost anything to make our loved one come to her senses.
Except let go.
Holding on is exhausting.
Jesus offers us an amazing exchange: His perfect way for my imperfect way. When we willingly (though probably reluctantly) open our hands, we give God permission to do His very good work in our lives—and in the lives of our prodigals.
There is rest in release.
Below is a declaration of release that I have said many times in God’s presence, because I have often taken my prodigal back and needed to release him again. During your times of prayer, say this declaration of release as often as necessary:
To my loved prodigal:
Because Jesus Christ is my Lord, I free you from my anxiety, fears and control. I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and show you the way that is right for you—the way of love, joy and peace and all that salvation includes.
I place you at God’s throne of Grace. I cannot force my will on you. I cannot live your life for you. I give you to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You are a very special person. As much as I love you, God loves you more. Your life today is totally in His hands, and I trust Him with it.
In Jesus’ name, I release you from my expectations,
I place you on open palms to the Lord,
I give you my blessings,
I let you go.
My son is in a major struggle right now, and once again I am choosing to release him to the Lord. And already I am finding rest. And this truth prevails well beyond prodigals—it applies to any situation, place, person, plan that we are holding on to, demanding our own way.
There is rest in release.
What about you? Is there something you need to release so you can have rest?
Judy Douglass desires to be a true follower of Jesus, an encourager, a fire starter. She helps lead cru with her husband, Steve, and writes and speaks globally. You can follow her on Twitter @jeedoo417, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JeedooDouglass) and you can read her blog on Kindling (www.inkindle.wordpress.com). Her free ebook on Learning to Rest is available here (http://inkindle.wordpress.com/more-from-judy/).