"Then Jesus said, 'There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, "Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me." So he divided his property between them.'"
The story of the Prodigal Son is perhaps the most famous of all of Jesus' parables. It starts with the WANTS of a son. He wanted his inheritance. Only, Dad wasn't dead yet. Minor details, right?!? The son asked his dad for it anyway (the equivalent of saying back then, "Dad, I wish you were dead!"). He knew what he wanted: cash, freedom, opportunity! And as soon as he got it, he was gone.
Jesus tells us the son took his wad of bills and traveled to "a distant country, where he squandered his property in dissolute living." I think Jesus was intentionally vague with the details - so we are free to fill in the blanks with the things WE think we'd secretly want to be doing, if we had that kind of unrestrained freedom!
We don't know how long this went on. Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Decades? Jesus simply informs us that "when he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need."
This is where the story hit me today. It's at this point that the son transitions from focusing on his WANTS... and moves to his NEEDS. He needed shelter, food, water, yes... but even more he probably needed the love, security, and grace that came from his family. He has the beginnings of this understanding... he devises a plan to return home and talk Dad into hiring him on as a servant. No grandiose ideas of sonship... just the practical necessity of fulfilling his NEEDS.
But God... I mean, the Father... doesn't operate that way. When the son returned home, his Father swept him up in an envelope of grace and restoration. He returned to what he had always had before he left, just never realized!
It's easy during the month of December to focus on our WANTS. We're making our lists and checking them twice. But maybe instead of thinking about those WANTS, we should prayerfully discern what our NEEDS truly are (or at least ask God for whatever they might be!). That's where God wants to provide for us.
May you (and I!) discover this timeless truth before we wander off to some "distant country." AMEN.