More Lessons from “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”
My post yesterday drew lessons from “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” found in Luke 15:11-32 regarding discerning whether or not one’s adulterous spouse is exhibiting the behavior exhibited by the prodigal son post-pigsty (click here to view post). This post is a continuation of that post as I will write about how discerning between whether you are dealing with a pre-pigsty prodigal or post-pigsty prodigal ought to dictate how you respond to the prodigal’s pleas or behaviors. I take my lesson from how the father responded in this parable as he is the stand in for our Heavenly Father.
How did the father in the parable treat the post-pigsty prodigal?
He welcomed with open arms and with gracious gifts restoring him to the status of a son. This is the response that most see and think it applies across the board to all situations. However, I see a father who recognizes his son has learned from his mistakes and sin first (more on that later). The father welcomes the post-pigsty prodigal home. Yet, I add, this younger son is not welcomed back without consequences. His inheritance is still gone. He squandered it on wild living. And the story does not indicate that the father will restore this. In fact, the father tells the elder son that he will inherit all the father has, remember? (see Luke 15:31) My point in this is that consequences still exist for poor choices made even if grace is extended.
In marriages with spouses soul raped by adultery, the innocence is forever lost in that relationship. Trust may be rebuilt in some rare cases. However, you cannot undo what has been done. History cannot be rewritten. It is history. A natural consequence of such actions is an awareness that the adulterous spouse is both capable of betrayal and acted on that capability. Innocence is gone. The adulterous spouse cannot take back the act(s) of adultery. The “inheritance” is not restored.
How did the father in the parable treat the pre-pigsty prodigal?
Put simply: he let him go. I am sure the father knew his son was sinning against him and making a horrible choice in demanding his inheritance early. However, the father respected his son’s autonomy and allowed his son to experience the consequences of his choices. He honored his younger son’s choices even though he likely knew it would lead to pain and destruction (of his wealth, at least). Like God, the father in this story honors choices even if they are poor ones.
The lesson in this response when dealing with adulterous spouses is to be willing to let them go. Do they stay in contact with their lover(s) and refuse to end those relationships cold turkey? Let them go. Do they refuse to see what they did as sin against you and God owning it 100%? Let them go. Do they continue to lie and conceal what they did protecting their soul-tie(s) to their lover(s)? Let them go. Are they acting entitled to marriage reconciliation? Let them go.
Such adulterous spouses are pre-pigsty prodigals. They have not come to a place of humility and ownership of their sin. So, they have chosen wild living over honoring their Heavenly Father. God let the prodigal son go, and so, we must also.
Let me give a concrete example of how this looked in my life. When I was dealing with my now ex-spouse’s infidelity, God through a close friend directed me to an excellent, though not perfect, book entitled Love Must Be Tough by Dr. James Dobson. It taught me the principles I teach here about dealing with a pre-pigsty prodigal spouse. The book with its example letter(s) and teaching inspired me along with the Holy Spirit (I am convinced) to write a letter of release to my then spouse. I wrote her a letter offering to reconcile maritally only if she put in the work convincing me the door was firmly closed to her adulterous relationship with the OM and any others in the future. So, I gave her a choice between honoring her marriage vows and repentance or choosing “wild living” and losing my friendship. Not surprisingly to me, she sadly chose “wild living” and losing my friendship. I had to let her go even knowing she was choosing her own destruction. We were divorced three months later.
Writing and sending this letter gave and gives me peace. The burden about the life or death of my marriage was no longer on my shoulders nor was the (false) shame of it. I gave a reasonable choice to my ex-spouse, and she chose to end the marriage refusing to repent.
When dealing with the false shame about my divorce now, I can point back to this exchange and say–to myself–“See?! She chose adultery over repentance, and I needed to honor her choice just as God honors ours even if that choice is to sin.” I let the pre-pigsty prodigal spouse go.
She left home and never came back.