There is scene in the movie, “A River Runs Through It,” that has left a deep impression on me. This is the story of a Presbyterian pastor and his two boys growing up in Montana. The pastor was a stern and methodical parent whom I believe did everything out of sincerity of faith and love for his children. In spite of his best intentions, the youngest boy not only rejected his father’s faith, but became increasingly involved in the alluring world of promiscuous sex, heavy drinking, and gambling. Eventually, his gambling debts became insurmountable and some local thugs beat him to death. The link below is a scene in the movie after the father learned of his son’s death and a message he preaches just before his own death.
Anybody who has been the parent of a rebellious child knows what I mean. We see the danger and we try everything in our power to lead our children in a different direction, but in spite of our best intention our beloved children may insist upon going against our instructions. As parents we feel helpless and anxious as our children make self-destructive choices, but we are certainly not alone. We not only share this journey with other parents, we share it with God as well. In the process we are given us a glimpse of what God goes through when we, as his children, stray away from him.
Jesus, towards the end of his earthly life, expressed quite well God’s love for his straying children when he lamented over Jerusalem:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
As much as God expresses his love for us, he doesn’t take from us our choice. Just like in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31), God allows us the freedom to leave. That story has a happy ending, but not all stories do. As parents, we try to encourage each other by saying, “everything will turn out fine,” but that is not always the case. The truth is many don’t make it through the journey. One of my best childhood friends was shot to death as he burglarized a house. I know some will say he deserved it, but what if he was your friend? What if he was your son? His parents were godly people who tried desperately to show him the right way to live, but he had to do things his way.
Many see alcohol as a way to unwind and have fun. That may be, until somebody is killed and another goes to prison all in the name of a good time. I have seen the havoc and repercussions of a young man who loved the excitement of Russian Roulette, until he blew his brains out. I preached the funeral for a daughter of a good Christian couple after she took her life with no indication anything was wrong. Furthermore, I have seen some of most loving God-serving people who have influenced thousands to escape the corruption of the world only to lose a child to suicide. EVERYTHING DOESN’T ALWAYS TURN OUT FINE!
This brings us back to the scene in the move. The pastor words are quite right, “We are willing to help, Lord, but what (if anything) is needed?” The fact is, those who need help the most don’t want it. They don’t see the dead-end road until it is too late. As a parent, my love for my children is unconditional. No matter who they kill, what they steal, who they rape, who they sleep with, or how many lives they destroy. I will love them. I don’t know that I have a choice. It as much a part of me as breathing. I may detest the things they do with unquenchable disgust and unending shame, but I will still love them to the core of my being. I have to wonder if this isn’t how God feels.
I have to concur with the message in the movie. My help may be unwanted. My advice may be shunned. My convictions and experiences may be discarded like unwanted trash. I do not understand because it isn’t always logical. The one thing I can do, I must do, and I will do regardless if it recognized, wanted, or appreciated, is love. I can love. I can love completely without complete understanding.