Tess sat in her room staring at the wall, almost motionless. She desperately tried to overhear the hushed tones of her mom and dad in the lounge room. They normally didn't care who heard them. Raised voices, shouting and name-calling was all too common. But this time was different. The tense whispering left Tess shaking...
All she could make out was that mom was handing out ultimatums. If dad didn't stop it, she was going to either call the pastor, the police or dad's best friend, Allan. Didn't stop what? Tess knew exactly what her mom meant. Dad's anger.
It wouldn't take much to set dad off. An unkind word about his work, his finances, his character - any of that would begin the snowball effect of anger. It was always the same. It would begin with defensiveness, then build into accusation, and then the anger took on a life of its own. It was almost demonic how the anger would escalate so quickly. You just needed to stay out of the way.
Run and hide, hold back your own anger, pretend this wasn't happening -- all these were the coping mechanisms that Tess knew too well. She wanted to punch a wall, lash out at her dad, put him in his place for his domination. These were the pent up feelings of a very scared girl. These feelings of shaking with pain, anger and control were bound to come out at some point.
Jack couldn't explain it... Couldn't put it into words, but he knew there was a hole... A certain empty space deep within. More than a knowledge that something was missing. He felt it.
Jack was raised in a Christian home of sorts. Well, there was prayer before meals, church attendance (a bit sporadic) and basic morals taught. Swearing, punching, name-calling were not allowed... Well, if it was heard, it wasn't allowed.
Jack, the oldest of three children, learned how to take care of himself. It was more out of necessity than actual ability. From the earliest time he could remember, Jack knew that he would need to watch his own back. He would have to fend for himself, and if he was able, he would look after his mom and little brother and sister.
You see, Jack's father, though present in the home, was a prodigal... A man that had long ago run away, hidden himself among work projects, phone apps, and other loves. He meant well (at least on the surface), but there was a void of real relationship in the home. This vacuum brought silence between mom and dad, selfishness between siblings and an independent spirit. After all, there was no father to depend on.
Jack would not have considered himself to be a prodigal son. He knew that story from the Bible. But Jack's escape was one of self-reliance and independence.
Eden seemed like she had everything going for her. Good grades, good hair and a great personality. She attracted people to herself wherever she went. Her loud laugh and bright smile was irresistible. Eden knew this and liked it. The attention felt good.
On her own, away from the crowds, Eden knew a certain sadness. Sometimes, it would come over her like a wave. It left her feeling so alone and quite fake - given all the attention she received from her friends. But, more relationships couldn't shake the sadness.
Eden's dad left the family when she was small... earlier than she could remember. She had met him a time or two. But really, he was just a name on the family tree... no special connection. Eden's mom simply told her that they didn't get along, and it was for the best that he went away. That explanation usually worked. But, the gnawing void within Eden grew as she matured. Somehow, she couldn't shake this feeling that she was illegitimate... that she had a fake father, and she was a fake daughter... And a fake friend to all those who knew her.
With the wave of sadness and illegitimacy building, Eden sought relief in the arms of guys. Though she felt used, it was better than nothing. Really, she was using touch to satisfy her craving for love - even if that touch left her more empty than before.
Taylor loved her dad. He was the best. He was pretty even-tempered and usually always had the right wisdom needed for any situation. He provided for Taylor and her brother - so generous with gifts and his time. Taylor often wondered how she got the perfect dad.
As Taylor grew into her high school years, she maintained a good relationship with her dad. He came to her soccer games and awkwardly cheered for almost every kick of the ball. Yet, even with such positive support from a good father, there was an insecurity growing within Taylor.
You see, Taylor's dad, though very present and wise, did not know how to express deeper emotions of love in words and physical affection. Taylor knew she was loved. But she just had a hard time feeling it, experiencing it, knowing it deep within. She longed to hear the words, "I love you." She desired the embrace of her dad. But this kind of affection seemed too difficult to find. Even well-meaning dads can run away from vulnerability, from the affirmation and affection that their kids need.
Taylor on the one hand was strong and capable. She definitely had an air of confidence about her. But, in her more private moments, she struggled with really knowing she was loved. There was a coldness about her... an isolation that she couldn't shake. Real intimacy in relationships, real vulnerability was hard to come by. Like her father, she too ran from the deeper emotions.
Generations of children have been raised by prodigal fathers... Men that have run away physically, emotionally or relationally. Not able to face their God-given responsibilities out of their own insecurity, they pass on pain that leaves their children orphaned.
If sons and daughters are not healed and set free from this orphan spirit, they become the prodigal child who later becomes another prodigal parent.