The Prodigal Dad

I was recently with a father who has been through the ringer with his son over the past few years. Suffice it to say that he has run into the wall just beyond the line of God’s sovereign will and the common grace of parenting. Or perhaps more illustrative, he’s living in the tension of “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” This man is a great dad. His heart’s desire is that all of his children would, like the apostle Paul, “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9)

As we discussed God’s sovereignty, man’s depravity, and the life lessons therein, I was reminded about something my own dad has always told me. “Never be afraid to come home.”

Six simple words that meant so much more. They meant that I will always have a home under my father’s roof. They meant that my dad would be the first person I call (save perhaps my wife nowadays) if I found myself in real trouble. They meant that there is literally nothing I could do to lose my right to be a part of my father’s family. I always knew this. And so do the kids of my friend above.

But as I drove away from our meeting, a distant realization caught up with me all too quickly. It was as if I had walked out my front door into a maelstrom of reality dragging me deeper into its grasp. You see, as I have often written about, I have a great dad. And my friend is a great dad. But many in our own church cannot say the same thing.

The fatherhood deficiency in American society is nothing new. In fact, the worldwide phenomenon has been pandemic for years. I was recently in Nicaragua. They have the same problem. I’ve been to 3 or 4 other Latin American nations that are in the same boat. It’s not a new thing.

But the striking reality is this. As the trend grows, fewer and fewer children will hear the words “Never be afraid to come home.”

Now, why are those words so important?

Because of all the things they tell us. “Never be afraid to come home” is a clear picture of the reality that God searches for his prodigal children. It’s the declaration that there is literally nothing a child of God can do to lose the right to be called his son or daughter. It means that, for the Christian, our first response when we sin is to run to our Father, rather than away from him. And that is a true mark of maturity.

But I’m fearful that without our earthly dads to tell us that, we will have a difficult time learning it about our Heavenly Father. My dad—his actions, his love, and his words—were instrumental in my regeneration experience. And what’s more, my dad was a father figure for some of my closest friends when we all lived in a house together. They may not have called him dad. But a good father is a father in the same way a good athlete is an athlete. It just comes natural.

Don’t think that I’m attempting to take the supernatural away from God, as if he couldn’t possibly regenerate hearts to faith without the example of good earthly fathers. The truth is, God has ordained fatherhood to be a vivid illustration of his relationship to us. Why else would he call us sons and daughters?  So, for Christian fathers, the office of fatherhood carries a grace-filled weight that is unlike any other office that men can occupy.

But the problem is we have too many prodigal dads. Fulfilling their own destinies through achievement. Chasing a different woman every night at the local dive bar to escape chronic loneliness. Exploring “feminization” and “metrosexuality” simply because they are the latest trends on their news feeds. Searching for the kind of identity that is only to be found within the scope of God’s good design.

So, this is a plea to the prodigal dads. It’s not too late. My dad’s not perfect. Far from it. But he was, is, and will always be—first and foremost—my dad.

If God can heal the most fractured relationship that has ever existed—the one between you and him—he can surely reconcile your relationship with your wife and kids by his grace. He can certainly bring you under the fountain of joy that comes from renewal in Him. He can put you back together.

Prodigal dad, “Never be afraid to come home.”


Alex Dean (@AlexMartinDean) is a pastor in Lakeland, Florida. Holding an undergraduate degree from Dallas Baptist University, Alex is currently completing his graduate work at Reformed Theological Seminary. His book, Gospel Regeneration: A story of death, life, and sleeping in a van, is available on Amazon, iBooks, and other online retailers. Follow his blog at and follow him on Twitter.

Used with permission. Originally posted at