Jesus told the story of a Prodigal Son who resented parental authority. Unwilling to enjoy the father’s wealth as a member of his family, he chose for personal ownership his share of the estate. Luke 15 has the account. It also reveals how poorly the man fared on his own, without supervision, making choices as he pleased. He found it like the Wisconsin River to the early settlers: calm on the surface, with a torrential current underneath racing to the Father of Waters. It regularly killed unsuspecting swimmers and boaters.
Off into self-direction the youngster went, bursting with confidence, delighting in freedom, spending freely from his father’s generous bequest, always finding friends willing to share his largesse. With a gambler’s luck he couldn’t lose and always won, no matter the hand life dealt. He boasted that self-will certainly excelled living within his dad’s authority.
Then, always and inevitably true to itself, even as it betrays its practitioner, self-will turned on the boy like a grizzly on its hunter. He found himself the prey, not the master of his desires. Suddenly, whatever decision he made, he found it premature or late, but never at just the right time. And those friends, so willing to help waste his money, had no time for him as his bankroll diminished, and he couldn’t spend freely.
That’s when he went to the hogs, not the dogs. And where he finally re-gained the spiritual sanity he forfeited by living apart from his father.
Creation teaches a lesson we refuse to learn. The pleasures God built into it will satisfy only as we see them as gifts of his presence, NEVER as independent entities, as if creation itself produces them. What God made will always make human life enjoyable, but not meaningful. As Augustine wrote, God made us to live within his will, and we find rest only when we LIVE WITHIN HIS WILL. All created things—even family, careers, friends, et al—will be false to us by being true to God if we seek in them the purpose only God gives. Do not blame them; blame only the ego that seeks meaning where only enjoyment exists; that mistakenly chooses created things, not the Creator, for their purpose. Only the spiritually-tutored know the difference. The spiritually untutored will always consider the gifts, not the Giver; the benefits, not the Benefactor, as their HOPE.