From Our Perspective

160. Struggling with Love, Family and Forgiveness: A Tale of Three Prodigal Daughters

Posted on : 16-09-2016 | By : Dr. Jeffrey & Angie Goh | In : From Our Perspective

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” [Ephesians 6:1-2, NRSV]

Three young ladies enjoying themselves.

Three young ladies, three real-life stories. Each story narrates a life of teenage rebellion and the excruciating tale of a hurting mother struggling with love, family and forgiveness. These mothers struggled with what Saint Paul put to the Colossians, “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” [Colossians 3:13]. They have tasted the truth and the power of forgiveness so aptly described by the Dutch author, Cornelia “Corrie” Ten Boom:

  • Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chain of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”

Read their stories and see what you think.

1. A daughter who left home without a word

Teenage girl leaving home and her worried mother

What do you do when a rebellious daughter who had run away from home, whom you thought would be better dead than alive, now says she is coming home?

The teenage daughter of a Melakan woman was rebellious and often beyond control. Once, the daughter ran away from home without leaving a word. For months, there was no communication from the insolent prodigal brat. One day, she phoned to say that she was coming home. The mother found herself in a dilemma.

Should she welcome her daughter home with love and forgiveness? Or should she give her a huge scolding that she deserved, plus a severe warning that she would be thrown out to the streets if she did not behave herself from then on? While waiting for her daughter’s arrival, she was very fidgety, unsure how she would behave when her daughter walked through the front door. But the moment she actually saw her daughter, she just went over and hugged her and she surprised herself to find that what came out from her lips were only two words: “Welcome home.”

All those harsh words and warnings [that prepared speech!] which she had earlier rehearsed in her mind were forgotten. She knew she had to forgive her daughter – she was her child, however rotten the girl might have become. She was simply relieved and delighted that her daughter had returned home.

After that, when they sat down, she even said sorry to her daughter for scolding her in the past and for being harsh with her and all that. And the daughter said sorry to the mother in return for her bad behaviour. There were lots of tears, plenty of hugs, and glorious reconciliation through mutual forgiveness.

Fast forward a dozen years. Now, that daughter has become a mother herself. She now tells her mother that she is really grateful that mother was so kind and forgiving when she came home after running away. If her mother had not been as forgiving as she had, the daughter said she was not sure where she might have ended up today – a prostitute perhaps, or a drug addict or gang member, or plain dead in a back alley somewhere! In her case, the mother’s forgiving love had brought about reconciliation and saved a rebellious child.

2. A daughter who married a Muslim

A raging tempest.

In a second story, the fate of the relationship between a mother and her daughter in Penang hangs in the balance. However, the prospects look bright.

The mother in this second story spoke to us at the foot of a huge cross right after the retreat. Her lips quivering, and her eyes streaming with tears, she said she came to the retreat vowing never to forgive her daughter. The girl had gone against her wishes not to mix with that boy from another race and worse, another religion. She even went on to marry him, despite the mother’s warning that she would disown her if she went ahead with the marriage. She went ahead regardless. The mother and daughter had never spoken with each other ever since, even though the daughter keeps regular contact with her other siblings. The mother has been so hurt and angry that all she wanted to do was to hang on to her anger and her righteousness. She had never allowed herself to shed a single tear over this incident. Her heart was truly hardened.

“Forgiveness” was the topic in the final input session at the retreat. The mother, who seemed badly shaken by the stories narrated in that session, said: “I have for many years not been able to find the ‘tap’. I was so angry with my daughter that I couldn’t cry. I refused to cry. I just wanted to be angry with her, to refuse to accept her, to punish her. Now, after this retreat, I have come to realize that I have actually been punishing the both of us. Thank you for helping me cry for the first time in years. I thank God for sending you to me, to open my heart. Now, I see that I, too, have contributed to the problem. I could have behaved differently. I shall now find a way to reach out to her. I shall work on reconciliation.” And then, gripping our hands real tight, she pleaded in tears, “Please pray for me. God bless your work.”

3. A daughter who left home for drugs and addiction

Drug addiction.

This third story took our breath away when a mother, Elizabeth, narrated it to us in Ipoh.

Her daughter at a young, impressionable and rebellious age got mixed up with bad company and was drawn into drug and addiction. She disappeared for a number of years. You can imagine the deep, silent suffering of the mother during all that “dark” period of the daughter’s absence. “It was a very difficult time for me. I didn’t even know whether she was dead or alive,” Elizabeth said.

Children can lose their way, but we, the adults, are not allowed to lose ours. Children may lose their faith, but we, the parents, should plead all the more with God to strengthen our faith during those difficult times when our children are in whatever way difficult or estranged from us and from God.

That was what this mother did. She never lost her faith. She prayed fervently, as troubled mothers would. She never gave up.

And she did something else that was truly amazing. All that time while her daughter was “gone”, whenever and wherever she shopped for her children, Elizabeth would always buy one share for that daughter. She would keep that daughter’s share nicely in her closet, waiting for her to collect them one day – when she eventually came home.

One day, after many years, when the daughter did finally come home, Elizabeth showed her all the things she had bought and nicely kept for her throughout those years, waiting to be opened by her personally. What this mother did to this prodigal daughter was to convince her beyond a shadow of doubt that her mother has never stopped loving her, no matter what. She was a beloved child in this family, and always will be.

Three mothers, three stories. One golden thread linking them all is the power of forgiveness that breaks the chain of bitterness.

What do you think about these three women and their real-life struggles?

Copyright © Dr. Jeffrey & Angie Goh, September 2016. All rights reserved.

You are most welcome to respond to this post. Email your comments to jeffangiegoh@gmail.com. You can also be dialogue partners in this Ephphatha Coffee-Corner Ministry by sending us questions for discussion.