Friday, September 19, 2008

When Runaways Remain

Around 25 years ago my sister and I became unhappy with how things were taking in shape in our family. Hidden behind a ridge in the mountains of northern Georgia our hand-crafted cabin bulged with three wild-haired big eyed hippie's daughters. (Later there were five girls, but not then) Our feet tended to be bare and we flowed inside and out with little concern for societal norms. We were raised to love Jesus and the land He painted at creation and for some reason two of us had become disgruntled with what I now realize was a beautiful childhood. It was agreed upon that one of us should run away. Now my sister will tell you that though two years my senior she often shared her ideas with me and then encouraged me to act on them. I don't remember there ever being a discussion as to who was going to do the running, but you can probably guess it was me that ended up packing my bags. Early one morning before the sounds of my mother awoke us we whispered our goodbyes. Before leaving, I boldly climbed onto the counter and helped myself to an unopened box of cereal--a BIG No No. Then I made my way as quietly as possible around the wild cherry tree and down a small slope to the back of the house where the crawl space had an opening. For whatever reason, I felt this was as good a place as any to run away to and so it was there I stayed--a disgruntled, disappointed and frustrated runaway. In the end I think we actually had to tell my mom I had run away. They never even noticed my absence. That may have had a good deal to do with the fact that I didn't manage to stay gone very long. This morning as I was reading in John 15 my memory was washed with the pictures of that childhood story. Verse nine of John 15 says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love..." Eleven times in the first ten verses Jesus speaks the word remain. Remain. The word is well translated as in the Greek it means simply to stay, to remain, to abide or consider Eugene Peterson's translation: "I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love." (John 15:9) When you know the depths of someones love you never want to leave. But when the love of those who care for you is called into question then it is human nature to run. If we run then at least we aren't present for the pain of disappointment. Obviously as a little girl I had become disappointed with something happening in our house and I questioned the rightness, the fairness, and the love of my parents. (I had probably been asked to do some unreasonable thing like feed the dogs or fold laundry :-) But my sister and I both felt the best situation was to jump ship, to run. The thought of staying and persevering through something didn't weigh enough to stand a chance against the idea of running. Two and a half decades later I find people still tend to run when things get rough. Some are like me--they don't run that far. The fight they had with their husband just sends them running to call their friend. The frustrations with their children just drive them to the computer. The stress at work sends them for a little retail therapy. The disappointment with themselves sends them to the freezer for the entire container of Moose Tracks. I've been there--literally. Sometimes they run farther though--they leave their marriage. They never speak to their relative again after the last fight. They quit their job and hunt for another one. Sometimes running doesn't seem like running, it seems like a logical solution to avoid a messy conflict. But when we run from God we run from our very source of life and over time the light in our life will flicker and burn out. It may take years, but mark my words it will happen. I've seen it. I've lived it. The two children who lost their mom, the hard working family man who lost two jobs in one year, the family who lost their home, the woman who lost her chance at love all have one thing in common--the choice to remain or run. They're real live people like you and like me and they face insurmountable-how in the world could a good God allow this-it's not fair-it hurts so hard I can't breath-circumstances. They face the gritty questions in life to which there are no good answers and they're hurt, they're disappointed, they're angry, they're frustrated and they're desperate. You better believe they're gonna be tempted to run. The challenges I face seem insignificant compared to those of so many others but still I find myself tempted to throw in the towel too from time to time. I am comforted by the truth that Jesus loves me with the same incredible love that God poured on Him as He faced the gruesome reality of death by crucifixion. What a life changing truth it is when He says to us I love you with that same exact love and I want you to "live in" my love. When you know that you know that you know that you are loved without question you feel so safe, so secure you never want to leave that kind of relationship. My husband has showed me what that kind of love feels like. In him I have found a love that has endured without hesitation or contingency and I've been able to take that picture and paste it on the heart of Jesus to better understand what He means when He says He loves me. To live in the love of God we have to believe in it. We have to stand on the truth of God's Word and declare to our doubting hearts, "My Father will NEVER leave, NEVER forsake, NEVER abandon, NEVER give up, NEVER release us, NEVER fail, NEVER falter. His love is permanent and it is mine." (Hebrews 13:5, Deut. 4:31, Ps. 138:8, Jude 1:24, Romans 8:39) No matter what we face, we face it shielded by the love of God. If we aren't living in God's love it's as if we are a soldier cowering. behind the largest, mightiest, strongest most impenetrable sword ever fashioned shaking and petrified because we can't see the shield. Just because we don't see it doesn't mean it's not there. We are shielded by the God who commands lightning bolts with a single breath. Jesus wasn't removed from the greatest trial known to mankind, He was loved through it and in that love He found the strength to carry out the most heroic mission of all time. Only after He made it through death did God raise Him to His right hand. Joseph didn't receive a 'become the pharoah's right hand-man' free pass. First he was loved through a pit, and prison terms and then he was lifted up into the position God had planned all along. What about Esther? God didn't just change her king's heart and spare her people, He loved her through the fear of risking her life to save her people. Trials are a reality of this life. Disappointment. Pain. They are the stories of the heroes of the faith. But they are only fleeting emotions in the lives of those warriors--the permanent backdrop for every single one of these stories is the guaranteed love of God. Without exception His love is our guarantee. I Cor. 13:13 says, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." When we lose faith, and we will, when we give up hope, and we will, may we remember the greatest of all--the God whose very name is LOVE. In His love may we remain. Pray with me: Lord, Your name is love. Your love is so unfathomable. But I have to admit there are times when I want to scream why, God? Why do you allow pain into our lives? Why do you allow heart break? Why? And yet, Lord if you never answer the why's, won't you fill me with belief in the truth of your remaining love. God help me to live in that love. Help me to linger there, to stay, to put my suitcases down and grab hold of your love with all my might. Thank you, Father. Read with me: Jude 1:21 Listen with me: God loves you--Deborah Klassen


Anonymous said...

Thank you.

bretta said...

Just what I needed to hear today, Sarah. Thanks for sharing your heart. Love you!