Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"What Are You Running From?"

One time, 11 years ago, I was running and running and running, in the blazing heat of a summer afternoon, after 8 hours of building a roof on a church mission trip. I was running endless circles around a track, simultaneously numb and hurting. Echoes of a Voice of truth rang in the back of my head, but I thought that I could run away from it. I was in the running zone, which for me was deadness, and a voice cried out from somewhere. I never saw the source. I will never forget the words that rang in my ears. It queried, “What are you running from?” Appalled and indignant, I yelled, “Nothing.” I was so wrong. I was desperately running from the truth, from hearing, from life.

Over a decade later, I have learned the significance of those words so aptly spoken, anonymously, evidently inspired by the voice of the Lord.

What are defense mechanisms? What are addictions? What are idols and unhealthy habits? They are efforts to run from God. What happens when we run from God? It may go well for a while. We really can’t predict how long. If we know God, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we will have a nagging feeling in our gut (Holy Spirit??) that we are not truly satisfied. The Spirit will not let us be satisfied in a life of running. That is the reason why the prodigal son returned to his father. He must have known his father and realize that his life was sadly incomplete in comparison to the life he had known. He crashed, eating with the pigs. How many times have I chosen to eat with the pigs when God had for me a feast? Pride says to keep running, especially now. You have run so far, that there can’t be any grace left for you. Farther and farther, the promises have proven to be lies, but the lies grow stronger even though they are blatantly glaringly wrong.

The longer we run the more weight we run with. We try to outrun the pain, only to realize that the pain is carried in a nap sack on our back. It is like trying to move out of a town to get away from an illness that we carry within ourselves. Running away from consequences delays them and only increases their impact. They will catch up. They always do. Our Lord allows consequences, not out of a vindictive nature, but out of love. He wants us to come back. Why would He want me back? Doesn’t he know? I ran even thought I knew. I ran even though His Spirit grated and pulled and nagged.

Now the running shoes are shame. Guilt and shame propel my flight. I cannot go back to my home, because He has probably thrown my belongings out the door, given my bed to the dogs. Maybe He is seething in anger. Worse yet, maybe He has forgotten me. So I keep running, and my shoes of shame say, “You can never go back. He won’t want you. His mercy only stretches so far, and that grace ended miles, years, decades back.”

But how could His grace have ended if His voice stretches even here? How could the unbearable tug exist if He has already given up on us? He cries, “My grace is still for you. Your room is prepared. I am so much bigger than your running course, especially because you are running in circles. You cannot outrun my grace. I will not let you run without my voice reaching you. Come home. Come home. Come home. Come home."

Step after step, exhaustion increases. Step after step, we break down. We fall on our knees, and there is nothing left. His voice echoes in our heart:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Rest? Oh, to rest! I forgot what that was! You will what? Take my burden? I don’t deserve it. I deserve this burden. There is no way that Your grace is sufficient for me.

“Oh, child, you don’t know My ability to extend grace. You don’t have to be guilty anymore. It doesn’t matter. I can forget it. You don’t have to run anymore. You can’t run anymore. You have come to the end of yourself.”

But I am so dirty, Lord. Do you see the layers of filth? I stink with sin and condemnation.

“Oh my child, I have shower for you. The blood of my Son will wash away your filth. You will be white as snow. You will be spotless. There will be no residue of your trip away from me.”

Can you make me whole, Lord? I am wasted away because of my running. There is
nothing left of me. I gave it away.

“Oh, child, I will make you more whole than you thought possible, because I will fill you. I will restore every part of you.”

A couple of years later after the voice questioned my running at World Changers, I collapsed in a heap with a broken hip, and shame screamed that I could not return to my Shepherd. I kept running. I collapsed again, and I heard and listened to His voice. I stopped running. I fell into His arms. He washed. He restored. He healed. He made me whole. We walk together. I don’t carry around stains. Mercy is mine, and His voice is my guide rather than a nagging thorn. He loves me. He has always loved me, and the only place that I run now is into His arms.

For me, running was in many ways literal. It takes many forms. As many forms as there are individuals on this earth. But there is no form of running that is too far from the grasp of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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