One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the parable of the Prodigal Son. When he was little, my son, Ryan, drew a picture for me of the scene when the father ran to the son to welcome him back home. That moment exemplifies the love of God for each of the sinners who come back. Of the 650 paintings Rembrandt left to his daughter at his death, one of the most famous is, The Return of the Prodigal Son, which depicts the sinner returning home to his father’s presence. It was one of Rembrandt’s favorites because it is a story of love and redemption. This is what Luke wrote about that particular moment: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
The picture is so moving because most fathers would have stayed put both then and now and waited for the wayward son to come to him, but not this father—he was so moved he ran to his son. He threw his arms around him and kissed him. This is a portrayal of God’s love.
In my years of counseling, I have seen the deadly effect of a parent withholding love. When a parent is critical and stingy with praise for the child—the child will long for the parent’s approval. That child as an adult will be insecure and self-critical, always seeking but never gaining acceptance. The parent who criticizes their child plants seeds of doubt that will beat that child’s self-esteem down on into adulthood. The critical parent’s voice will live in their head, robbing them of the enjoyment of life.
How different it is when a child has been affirmed and loved. That child will feel secure and confident. As an adult, they will love and praise those in their lives because they have been loved. I implore you to show love and express it in words of affection and affirmation because love changes people for the better.
Here is a story that illustrates that: I am not sure who the author is:
Mary Ann Bird was born with multiple congenital disabilities: a cleft palate, disfigured face, crooked nose, and deafness in one ear. As a child, she suffered not only her physical impairments but terrible emotional damage inflicted by other children: “Mary Ann, what’s wrong with your lip?”
Worst of all was the school’s annual hearing test. The teacher would call each child forward, the child covered one ear and then the other, and the teacher whispered a simple phrase: “The sky is blue,” “You have new shoes.” Mary Ann could not hear in one ear and did everything possible, including cheating, to minimize attention to her disability. She despised the whisper test.
But one year, her teacher was Miss Leonard, whom every child loved. The day came for the dreaded hearing test. Mary Ann cupped her ear. Miss Leonard leaned forward. And Mary Ann has never forgotten the words that God must have put in her mouth, those seven words that changed her life. Miss Leonard did not say, “the sky is blue” or “you have new shoes.” What she whispered was, “I wish you were my little girl.”