I was thinking about the story of the prodigal son when this thought came to me: the father could have kept the son from leaving by withholding the inheritance, but the father knew that the son's heart had already left. Without the son's heart being present, it would be the same as the son being gone anyway. The father wanted more than just the physical son. He wanted the whole son. Having the son without the son's heart would be like us having the car without the motor. After all, it's from the heart that the issues of life originate (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is what moves us. To keep from losing the whole son, the father enabled the physical son to be where his heart was. I know, you're already thinking that in doing this, he lost the whole son anyway. But that's where the wisdom of the father becomes very visible. The father had faith that when the son learned that nothing was as fulfilling as being at home with the father, he would return, bringing his heart with him. And that's exactly what happened. We don't know how long it took, but that speaks volumes about the patient love of the father.
How many times have we wanted something more than to be with the Father—wanted to be moving around instead of resting in His presence. In His patient love, He allows it, however long we need, until we learn that what we REALLY want is to receive everything we need from His presence.
It didn't matter where the son went, what he did, or who he ran with—the father still loved him and kept an open heart toward him. The Father feels the same way toward us.
If we need it, really need it, it's in the Father's presence. If He doesn't have it, then we don't need it and we'll better off without it.
One more thought: when the son returned, the father restored.