. . . “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”  (Luke 15:11-13)

He thought he had what he wanted: independence, and with it, no boundaries on his appetites.

What he got was degradation, hemmed in by cold and hunger, and an unsatisfied appetite for pig slops.

It was a hard lesson, but one that finally opened his eyes. Sometimes, God gives us what we think we want so that we can discover for ourselves what has real value: a relationship with Him.

The younger son’s share of the estate wasn’t due until his father’s death. Under the law, his father could have had him stoned for such disrespect; in effect, he had declared it was the money, not his father’s continued life, that he most wanted.

Jesus is giving us a glimpse of what God our Father feels like when we expect too much too soon, take what he lovingly gives us, and then run off and squander it all. But His desire for our good is so strong, His love for us so deep, that He uses the consequences of our mistakes as opportunities to bring us back to Him.

When we take advantage of what we’ve learned and come back ready to serve instead of be served, our Father welcomes us with open arms and no condemnation. Though the younger son had blown through a third of what his father had worked his whole life for, there is no “after all I’ve done for you,” speech, or “I hope you know you’ll get nothing more from me.”

God is about growth, not grudges. He’s focused on building our character, not our bank account. He wants above all to have us choosing to be near to Him, wanting to listen and learn, longing to know His closeness because we love Him.  His goal is always love, not duty.

It makes me wonder what I may be expecting from God that is more focused on result than relationship. What has He already given me that I may have squandered by not using it fully or well?

What a blessing it is that when I come to Him repentant for my mistakes and missteps, my Father’s arms are always open. His lips don’t waste breath on recriminations, but pour out restoration. I don’t have to fear the lash of His tongue, but can fall gratefully into His loving embrace.

When all I want is Him, He will never leave me wanting.