This is the third in a series of behind-the-scenes blog posts regarding the book, The Single Dad Detour.

Page 39 includes a story about the infamous unwanted grapefruit tree my first wife and I received as a gift. What you don’t know is that the tree was a Christmas gift from my in-laws.11

A nice enough gift if their motive had been right and if I was more mature. But we were both wrong. They gave us the tree merely thinking it would grow and they would get some fresh fruit in return.

In their defense, they were not thinking about the time and money it takes to grow good citrus in Florida. Fertilizer, pruning, and pest control (rats) were added chores that came with owning a fruit tree. At the time, I held an out-of-town job and commuted to work. I was away from home 12 hours each day. I rarely had time to do extra work.

Oh and let’s not overlook my identity to a yard. To me, the yard was a reflection of who I was—-much like house decor reflects the woman who lives there. I was particular (maybe too much) of what I put in my yard. I carefully considered the type of grass, each flower and tree, the kind of landscape bricks—-everything.

So when I saw the potted tree on Christmas morning, I was not sure how to respond. The look on my in-law’s faces clued me in to smile big and thank them. But as they dove into their expectations of reciprocated bags of fruit, my grin faded. I had visions of fat, fruit-fed rats taking over my yard and home, money spent of pruning tools and fertilizers, a heater to keep the tree from freezing during the winter months. Yes, central Florida often gets freezing temperatures that ruin entire citrus groves.333

I dutifully planted the tree and watered it. Then, under cover of night, so my neighbors couldn’t see me, I poured gasoline on the roots of that sweet little tree.

So good for the environment.

I never bothered to stop and ask God what I should do. Instead, as Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.”

What a coward and a fool I was. I might have enjoyed years of fresh produce but I was too self-centered. I forfeited the joy of receiving a wonderful gift and the opportunity to provide sweet treats to my wife, kids, and in-laws.

22In this story shared in The Single Dad Detour I go on to explain how, if unchecked, our attitudes and actions lead us down roads we later regret. 

Being led by the Holy Spirit is key to surviving, whether it’s a Christmas gift you don’t want or a spouse that doesn’t want you. How often we take matters into our own hands.

When things don’t go as planned, pray. That’s the lesson here. Pray for wisdom, pray for humility, pray for maturity. The Lord is an ever-present help in time of need.

The rest of the story? Well, that poisoned tree lasted about 4-5 days and died. Then I pulled it out of the ground and tossed it in the trash can. I thought my problems were solved. In actuality, that dead tree represented a much bigger problem I was of yet unaware. 

The devil had poured poison on my family and I was about to discover my marriage was dead. But you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more about that.    

 

 

My 29-year-old son hasn’t spoken to us in almost four years.Prodigal-Son father

The last time he communicated he made it clear he didn’t want any of us (me, his step-mom, his little sisters, his uncles/aunt or cousins) in his life. I won’t go into the bad choices he’s made nor the consequences he’s suffered. All I know is my heart is broken and I’m hurt. Both by how he’s living and how he’s treated us. 

We were once so close. Now, for some reason (maybe shame?) he refuses to give a valid reason for breaking off this relationship. So how do you pray for a child who you no longer know? When you have no idea where he is, where he works, or if he’s even alive? 

I just pray. I pray in generalities–for his health, his mental state, his relationships, and most of all I pray for his spiritual life. I ask God to steer him back to Christ. I pray dangerous prayers like, “Whatever it takes God, bring my son back to you.”

That’s the desperate prayer of a father who longs above all else to see his son walk upright. I long to see him in a deep relationship with his Creator. That’s how I raised him. 

You might have a prodigal. A son or daughter who has drifted from or refused to take part in the godly inheritance meant for them. How do you pray when you’ve run out of words–run out of energy?

Here’s a few points to jump-start your prayer for him or her:

          Dear Heavenly Father,

  • God, transform me and my attitude. Take away any bitterness and grudges against my child so I can pray with a pure heart. Give me the strength to continue in this battle. When I’m tired and just plain sick of it, give me compassion and mercy. Not to be taken advantage of, but to mirror Christ’s love. Help me remember that speaking truth might be hard, but it doesn’t have to be harsh. 
  • Lord use my son or daughter’s friends. Use even his/her questionable friends to speak truth into their life. Bring godly people into their life. Surround them with loving community. 
  • Father if you must, let my child hit rock bottom. Cause them to see their desperate need for a Savior. Prevent people from enabling them or rescuing them too early. Allow my child to feel the reality of being at the end of the rope. 

Coming back to the Lord is a process, not an event. So don’t give up. Keep on praying. Keep believing. You never know what God will do. When you pray for a loved one who seems hardened against the Lord, or against you, pray that the eyes of their heart might be opened so that the light of God can come flooding in.

Do you have a prayer that has helped you cope as you await the return of your prodigal? Please share it with me. I need it this week.