The Prodigal Son may be a story of forgiveness, but to some people it is also a story about a loose tooth. Okay, only to me, but with good reason.
Luke, my six-year-old, had his front tooth loose and hanging by a thread for months, with no end in sight. Every day brought more certainty that this tooth was with us for the long haul. Through graduations, weddings, and funerals, The Tooth would be there as an inextricable part of our family. I’ve seen bull dogs with less tenacity.
Every time Luke smiled at me, I saw his future before me in a flash. In every scene, he still sported a dangling, loose front tooth. Every milestone picture captured it: driver’s license, prom, even holding his first child.
Then there was my recurring nightmare of his wedding. In front of friends and family, Luke stood at the altar, exceedingly handsome with his surfer-blond hair and strapping physique. He turned to greet his lovely bride and smiled. The crowd gasped in horror at the sight of his dangling, bloody tooth. He lisped, “I, Luke Hanthon, take thee…”
I felt a terrible sense of guilt as a mother. When Luke got his first tooth at one year, my heart gushed over how adorable he looked. Now I just wanted to grab a pair of pliers and yank.
When a child has a loose tooth, the rest of the family hangs in the balance. In the middle of all this dental madness, I happened to be reading the story of the Prodigal Son. Of course, this name was just assigned to him over time; it wasn’t actually his nickname. It’s not like his father referred to him this way in the Christmas newsletter. This year our Prodigal Son decided that my hard-earned money really must grow on trees so why not waste it all and have nothing to show for it. We’re so proud.
The Prodigal Son demanded all of his inheritance at once and then led a more scandalous lifestyle than a Hollywood bad boy. Once he hit rock bottom, he had to take a job as a pig feeder. The only thing worse than getting a job as the Director of Pig Slop is the poor guy who didn’t get the job.
One day when the pig slop started looking tasty, the son came to his senses. Filled with guilt and remorse, he returned to his father. By this point he must have been looking quite gaunt and scraggly, not to mention in desperate need of a shower. On the journey home, he probably imagined his neighbors and family lined along the village streets and taunting him. Hey, Bones! Here’s some slop–you want some fries with that? Hahahahaha! Oink, oink!
The only thing that could save this wretched man was redemption by his father. His father had every right to be angry and hold a grudge against his son. Instead, being filled with compassion, he ran to his son and buried the sin with his love and forgiveness. When the son’s life was hanging by a thread, the father was able to cut the cord that tied him to his pain.
Sometimes we just need Daddy to save us.
We were eating lunch when I noticed Luke’s loose tooth was starting to bleed. Against Luke’s wishes, it was time for Daddy to intervene. Dave had no choice but to end everyone’s agony and cut the cord…er, thread, that held us all in bondage. It was a bloody scene, but one that brought great deliverance for us all, especially our son. He now had a huge gap in his mouth, but he smiled with relief from the pain.
It reminded me of all the times in my life when I’ve been hanging on to something painful, and all I needed was the loving touch of my Father to help me let go. God is ready with his trusty pliers; all we need to do is let Him do His work.
The day after the impromptu tooth surgery, I heard Luke crying in his room.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
Nothing could have prepared me for the squeaky answer from the other side of the door:
“My other front tooth is loose!”