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Does God Let Us Fail?

I’m currently reading Parenting With Love And Logic. Half of what is said, I feel like I’m doing. But it’s still a good reminder not to venture too far into controlling my children out of annoyance with their childish behavior. The other day, I sat down to read my Bible, but wasn’t sure what to read. I wasn’t in the middle of studying any particular book. The parable of the Prodigal Son popped into mind, so I read that. Wow. I was blown away at how much was in this short, familiar story. And it was the perfect example of what I was reading in Love and Logic: giving choices, letting experiences teach, and not lecturing.

Story time!

If you’ve never read Jesus's Prodigal Son story, here’s my paraphrase. There are three characters - a father and his two sons we’ll call Dad, Perfect, and Prodigal (Perfect is the oldest, naturally).

One day, Prodigal asks for his inheritance. Demands it on his timetable, really. I’m positive Dad isn’t stupid and knows that he’ll waste it. But he gives it to him anyway, and lets Prodigal make his own decisions. Sure enough, Prodigal leaves, travels far away, and uses it for sex and “reckless living.” He doesn’t consider the future, and after he’s used up everything, a severe famine occurs. He hires himself out, but isn’t fed well, apparently, because he longs for what the pigs he’s caring for are eating.

Then he remembers Dad and that he is part of Dad’s household. And Dad is a good man - he feeds his hired servants, not just his children, very well. So Prodigal heads for home, completely humble and repentant, planning to ask Dad to hire him as a servant, not daring to resume his position in the family after what he’s done.

But Dad, who is still hopeful and watchful, sees Prodigal coming long before he reaches home, and runs to him. He hugs and kisses him. Prodigal doesn’t see this as reassurance, and begins telling Dad how unworthy he is and asks to be hired as a servant. But Dad throws a party, dresses him as the son he still is, and doesn’t lecture or fixate on the specifics of Prodigal’s choices. Prodigal has clearly learned through experience. More than any lecture would have taught him.

Meanwhile, Perfect is not happy. He doesn’t refer to Prodigal as his brother, and brings up Prodigal’s specific sins. He speaks to Dad, not as a father, but as an employer who owes him. He compares himself to Prodigal and is angry that Dad has never thrown a party for him. Dad responds by referring to Prodigal as Perfect’s brother, and reminding Perfect, not of his “servitude,” but that Perfect has always been WITH Dad and everything Dad has is his.

Dad doesn’t say, “You’re right. Throwing a party for Prodigal will send him the message that his sin is ok. He needs to pay back what he squandered.” Dad still doesn’t mention details or what Prodigal’s choices may have cost Dad or the rest of the family. Instead, he looks at Prodigal’s sinful choices and resulting situation as him being dead and lost. The separation was cause for sadness, not anger. And now that Prodigal is home, it’s a time for celebration!

Was It A Waste?

Romans 8:28 says that for people who love God and are called according to His purpose, He works all things together for our good. ALL THINGS! All circumstances. Nothing is wasted. Praise God for that, because I know I have seasons in my life that look and feel like a complete waste. And yet, somehow, they aren’t. I may never understand how that is until I reach Heaven, but God is using even those seasons and circumstances I regret or simply don’t understand, for my good.

So does God let us fail?

It appears He does, but if that’s what it takes for our hearts to heal, for us to see ourselves and God for who we are and He is, then is it really failure? We see success as a linear, upwards expanding line that never falters. And I’m sure this is what Perfect’s life would look like in graph form. But his words and actions reveal his heart, and it’s not nearly as close to Dad’s as Prodigal’s is. And if that’s what matters in this life, then the failure was absolutely worth it.


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