Comments 8

The Young Prodigal with a Backpack

what does a mother do when her young son leaves home? via

Once upon a time, there was a little four-year-old boy. The little boy had no fear. None whatsoever.

He is probably growing up to be a soldier or a warrior of some kind, like the barbarians and Romans and green toy soldiers he plays with twelve hours a day. Something that will scare his mother to death or break his mother’s heart.

Anyway, he woke up early one morning, before the rest of the family was stirring (which is very hard to do, since the suburban family keeps farmer’s hours) and packed  his “Handsome ‘Formers” backpack. He had places to go and people to see. So, he chose carefully. A clean pair of underwear, two changes of clothes, and his favorite toys went into the backpack. Woody and Buzz Lightyear made too much noise and made the Handsome ‘Formers backpack too heavy, so they were taken out, and only the Chick-fil-A cow made the cut.

He was ready to go. When the family awoke, he announced to one and all.

I’m leaving for Oklahoma!

The stunned family didn’t know what to say. They tried teasing, dissuading, and finally, ignoring the pint-sized pilgrim. The mother, however, felt a strange pang in her heart. Is this what it feels like when birdlings leave the nest? The mother did not like the feeling one bit.

The young traveler was persuaded to remain at home for the day. But the next day, he could be detained no longer. After breakfast, when devotions had been finished and everyone was distracted with the busyness of the day, he donned his Handsome ‘Former backpack, said a quick “good-bye” over his shoulder, and was off to the promised land of Oklahoma.

The family stared at the closed door in shock and awe.

What to do? Should they call Dad? Should they call the police? Should they drag him home by force? The mother sat a moment, wooden as her chair, the pangs in her heart more cruel than ever.

Then, she did what any other warm-blooded mother would do. She grabbed her camera and trailed the vagrant from afar.

{Did the prodigal son’s mother do the same? She wondered, as she tiptoed down the sidewalk, half a block behind. The text says nothing about the broken-hearted mother, when that younger son so callously left his family behind. Lot’s wife could not leave Sodom without glancing back at the city which still housed her daughters and grandchildren. And now a mother looks after her wandering, errant son, her heart heavy and soul saddened.}

The lad made it to the corner, and without hesitation, he turns and continues on his way. The mother gasped in horror. This is no simple “search and rescue.”

He was serious!

And in her haste to catch a snapshot of the young traveler, the mother neglected to grab the most essential tool for the journey – shoes. The irony does not escape her . Here she is, attempting to overtake her young son to convince him of his folly, when obviously he is the better-prepared of the two of them!

She rounded the corner, but he was nowhere to be seen. Young legs make good time. Panic seized her, and she broke into a jog.

At the next corner, she was relieved to see the young boy had begun jogging himself and was halfway down the next block. She continued quietly pattering behind him, when he stopped to adjust his pack. Then, at last, he glanced behind himself and saw his mother.

He welcomed her company, and asked curiously why she had no shoes. It was then that she realized that in the nearly 100 degrees of the hot Texas morning the sidewalk had become hot. She began walking in the grass beside him as the two began chatting about his trip to Oklahoma.

When they came to the end of the next block, she pointed outside the subdivision at the busy road. There was no sidewalk out there, she mentioned. Short boys would not be noticed by fast trucks. The boy suggested his mother drive him to Oklahoma, but she reminded him that she had a busy schedule that week, with the circus coming to town and visits to Grandma’s house and to the museum. He had forgotten that.

By then, they were nearly around the half-mile block back home. The mother suggested they have a fruit snack and talk about trips to Oklahoma, just the two of them. The boy was tired, the Handsome ‘Former bag was heavier than when he left, the day was hot, and Oklahoma was getting farther away by the hour.

They came inside and sat down at the kitchen table, just the two of them. Tired and sober, the young prodigal was finally ready to listen to parental wisdom. Mother reminded him that children are to first obey their parents; he is not “his own man” to do his own thing. He sheepishly bowed his head when he realized he had forgotten to ever ask his father for permission to leave.

And what about his obligations to his family members? How many times a day does his mother call upon him for help? All the times! the prideful one answered. Well, then, God has placed him within this family to support his parents, brothers, and sister as long as he remains here. That is a sacred responsibility.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love!

Here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above!

 – Robert Robinson

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

The mother’s feet were, indeed, blistered badly from walking half a mile in the 100 degree heat to bring home the wandering child. But she would do it again. Maybe she should grab shoes instead of a camera next time.


  1. Ian says

    I love that! You are a wonderful storyteller.
    Don’t let him read ‘My Side of the Mountain’…he’ll never come home… (it’s actually a great book, set here in Delhi)


    • No joke! Fortunately, his favorite fairy tale, right now, is “Hansel and Gretel,” all about trying to get back home. I’m trying to emphasize that one for a while. : )


  2. Susan says

    You handled this so wisely that hopefully you will never have to have a “next time” with him. It is filled with a lot more heartache and sorrow when they are 18 and they dont look back.


  3. The hymn that you quoted at the end is one of my all time very favorite songs. I can SO relate to that! Praising God that He’s so merciful and will chase us down the block and bring us back to the kitchen when we decide to strike out on our own…


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