Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 7, 2008
Our God wears running shoes
Even when we lose hope in wayward children, God pursues them
Our Young Church
By ROY PETITFILS
In my house the phrase "I'm gonna get you" sets off an ecstatic shriek followed by the rapid pitter patter of little feet doing their best to wobble/run away from me. My son, Max, loves to play chase with his Da Da.
I have noticed that while he's running away he always turns around just to make sure I'm still following him, which I am - I hope I always will.
But I know that one day "I'm gonna get you" will receive an embarrassed sneer and that once ecstatic shriek will give way to "Daayaaad, leave me alone!"
Kids inevitably leave behind original innocence. Childhood games become more sophisticated and their delights often grow less innocent. In this process, many lose themselves and stray far from those who love them. I have seen how this process can take an enormous toll on their family and friends.
In these situations I find comfort in the story of the Prodigal Son. We all know the high points: Boy leaves dad. Boy gets into trouble. Boy comes back ready to beg for mercy. Father takes boy back. Perhaps we have been too familiar with the movement of the story.
One danger of becoming too familiar with the Gospel is that we risk becoming impenetrable to surprise - we are less able to see important nuances that convey powerful spiritual truths.
I wish someone would offer a depiction of this classic story and portray the Father wearing running shoes.
Jesus says, "While he was still a long way off, the Father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him." The Father waited, he watched and he ran.
Most of my life I saw God as a begrudging innkeeper who tolerated guests that were bold enough to beat the door down. I am convinced that this is a prevalent image of God among Christians - a tolerant dad, who allows us to enter the Inn of Forgiveness and Grace, once he is convinced that we understand exactly how much we have let him down.
This image of God served me well for most of my life. It kept me on the straight and narrow. It kept me safe.
But it offers little hope for our universal inability to deal with shame and brokenness.
God as a runner
And I believe it offers even less to a generation of jaded youth who would rather indefinitely put off a relationship with God, much less surrender to him.
The Father of Jesus Christ is a runner. Even while we are a long way off, we take hope in the fact that he has been watching for us and is lacing up his running shoes to race toward us.
God desires a relationship with us more than we do with him. He is passionate about this relationship, not because it keeps things spiritually tidy, but because he desperately loves us. He loves us even while we are a long way off of the straight and narrow path.
It is difficult to accept such raw, illogical and unrequited intimacy. It is not the experience of most Christians and I believe it is a fundamental reason many young people find it difficult to relate to God.
We find comfort in this story because even when we have lost hope for our wayward children, we have a sure hope that God has not.
Even when we have lost the energy and will to run, God is running to them, chasing them and beckoning them back. Our hope is in the name of the Lord - who wears running shoes.
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