For the session I’m hosting—“Thou Art my Beloved Child: Parenthood for Prodigals”—we look at instances of surprisingly unconditional grace, mercy, and compassion (i.e., love) in the family context as seen in the TV show Parenthood. My emphasis is more on parenthood-the-topic than Parenthood-the-show so that anyone, whether a regular Parenthood viewer or someone who has never even heard of it, can follow and enjoy the discussion. That said, I use Parenthood for my illustrations because I myself am obsessed. If you’re uninitiated, it is one of the most honest and psychologically in-touch shows currently out there, which is no surprise given it is produced by Jason Katims, the same guy who gave us Friday Night Lights—another Mockingbird favorite.
We use one particular subplot from the most recent season to illustrate how giving unexpected grace to children often brings about what parents most desire for them (and often more than we ever expected). We also use Luke 15:1-3, 11-32, the so-called parable of the prodigal son as our biblical touchstone. I say “Parenthood for prodigals” since the word prodigal does not mean lost as people often use it, but it actually has this definition: “Spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.” One could say, as Tim Keller has pointed out, that this word more poignantly applies to the father in the parable since he gives his love freely, with reckless abandon—just as God the Father does with sinners like us through Christ.
The subplot we explore together is Joel and Julia Graham’s (and daughter Sydney’s) prodigal adoption of Victor, a 9-year-old Latino boy: