It's Hard to be the Waiting Father

My dad used to say, "One phone call can change your life." Now there's a new twist on the whole "is the glass half-full or half-empty" thing. That can be a very frightening statement, or one filled with hope. For years and years that statement made me want to unplug the phone - well that's when we had those types of phones, but you get my point, right?

A couple of months ago, I received a phone call from a man that I know here in Birmingham. He had the sound of death in his voice - flat, no emotion, nothing. He told me that he had been having an affair and had just been caught. He told his wife, quit his job, and did not know what to do.

He came to Tapestry one Sunday evening, and I watched him try to come in the room. He made several hesitant passes and just could not come in. It is so hard to enter a church when people know you have really screwed up, isn't it? It should not be, but too many have made it that way. Anyway, a friend who is part of our community saw him and simply walked over to him and said, "Hey, so I hear you are a sinner. Welcome." They both chuckled and our friend was able to smile and felt safe taking a seat in our community.

Worship was difficult for him that evening. He kept walking out, but he always came back in and sat on the floor by the door. Have you ever felt like that?

He and I had lunch shortly after that, and he told me that he just did not know what he felt, or what he wanted to do. His wife was willing to work on things, but on that day, he wasn't sure he wanted to. Facing our mistakes always sucks, and it requires work. She was willing, but he was unsure.

Affairs are difficult to break free from. Everything in the affair seems perfect. It is fantasy land, isn't it? There are no screaming children, there are no bills to pay, there is no reality. It's all romance, affirmation, and sex. This is why affairs are some of the biggest lies in the world.

They are clandestine, and when that element gets tossed into the mix, you have one very potent cocktail that is hard to put down. They are intoxicating, and can even be euphoric. It's always hard to walk away from the exhilaration.

There is absolutely NO reality in affairs. And this is why they are so devastating to those engaging in them. When reality strikes, all parties involved are stunned beyond their wildest dreams. Panic sets in, shame sets in and cements the guilt. Then no one really knows quite what to do.

All too often, the two involved in the infidelity can not see the truth at all. They think they really love each other. Do you see how this really works? A relationship starts with both partners lying to their spouses, and then it's not long before they are lying about their spouses in an effort to generate sympathy. And it is often in that moment that they begin to say, "You understand me!"

The bond then begins to tighten, and soon they find themselves dancing a bit too close to the flame, and they wind up in bed together. The sexual bond created is mistaken for love, and since that "love" is in fantasy land, the spouses left behind cannot possibly compete with it.

This is what happened with this particular friend, and the hard part is that it does not matter how many times he hears that from people - he has to see that on his own. Lots of ministers will say things like, "well, when you repent of this and go back home, we can talk." That breaks my heart, and seems so counter productive.

I've only seen that result in people doing things because they are supposed to, as opposed to doing it because they want to. It's radically different when my daughters do something because they are supposed to and when they want to. Now, I realize there are times when they do need to do things whether they feel like it or not. It's just that in this type of situation, that usually doesn't work.

It is hard to be the father waiting for the prodigal to come home, isn't it? But the father waited. He delivered no ultimatums, no conditions, no restrictions - he waited. One day, the prodigal came to his senses and went home because he wanted to. He knew it was best, and he wanted to go home. He was contrite, and repentant. He came home begging to be a day laborer, not to come in as a member of the family - he just wanted to work for food.

The Father ran to him, hugged him, and welcomed him home. He threw a party for him to reconcile him to the community. He let everyone know that this is his son.

Last night, this particular prodigal called me to say that he was coming to his senses, and he wants to go home.

A great reminder that I can't save anybody. Only God can do that, and if I'll get out of the way and trust Him to work, He will. Standing on the porch is hard to do, but it can be the best place for us to be.

I need to sit and pray for a long list of prodigals that I know. I've been chasing them instead of waiting for them.

Anybody got a rocking chair?

4 Response to "It's Hard to be the Waiting Father"

  • Steve G Says:

    It is tough...I am one of the lucky ones; lucky of course means I have a wife who is willing to see the past as dead and to bury the dead.

    2 Corinthians 5:17

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

    The past should only be used for a quick glance back to make sure the path we are on is going in the right direction. there is a reason cars have large windshilds and small rear view mirrors!

    History books share the past so that we may learn. We do not build ships today the same way the Titanic was built, we learned, we changed.

    If you want to change the world, learn from the past, but do not live in it, this will only serve satan and he will find joy in your pain.

    Put on your new clothes, walk out into the light, and see how great life can be..You can have a relationship which will amaze others, or you can "pull the lever on the marriage slot machine" and try your "luck"...You see when you live in total honesty (sometimes referred to as "Brutal Honesty") you can take your relationship to a level you have never imagined. The Bible tells us God wants to give us more than we could ever even think to ask for...

    In church one morning, like I always do, I held this precious gift God has given me; held her hand, kissed her, laughed and cryed with her and praised God.

    After the service a young couple came up to us and said "I just hope when our kids are as old as yours are, that my wife and I have such a loving relationship as what we saw between you and your wife"(our kids are 20, 18 and 12)...8 years I drug her through the mud, 8 years of sexual addiction...we just smiled and and said "With God, all things are possible"

    That rocking chair you talk about...I will two of them, one for me and one for my wonderful wife as we grow old. But if there is only one, I will be happy to sit at her feet...

  • Joan Watkins Says:

    Thank you for this council, Tal. I have cried many tears for a couple I deeply care for dealing with this issue. I have expressed love, anger and forgiveness, as well as being honest about my own issues. However, I don't recall feeling or expressing patience.

    Glad to see you in the blogosphere. Welcome.

  • Clint Collins Says:

    We're gonna need to build a bigger porch....

  • Tal Prince Says:

    I sure hope so. One of the problems with the modern church is that we put the house on wheels and moved it so that a lot of prodigals are trying to come home, but can't find it.

    Let's build a long driveway, and make sure it's well lit.