“The difference between mercy and grace? Mercy gave the prodigal son a second chance. Grace gave him a feast.” ~ Max Lucado
As a reformed runaway myself, I have been trying to recall some of what I was feeling, and thinking, in my prodigal days.
First of all, I remember that no one calling themselves “a Christian” would have been able to convince me to return to the Church.
(I was very wary of Christians.)
That fact alone gives me great pause as I try to write this post to today’s runaways.
Ten years as a prodigal definitely gives me a little credence as to experience, but I believe that fact alone makes little difference to a confirmed, absentee Believer.
So, where to begin?
How do I hope to reach today’s Church runaways?
Well, sorry to say, I don’t have much hope that I can, but God? He’s another matter entirely, for of this much I am certain,
“If you are a runaway from God–you have no hope of outrunning His love for you.” It simply cannot be done.
(Of that I am sure.)
I tried for a decade, and failed.
Do you know the old adage: You can run but you cannot hide?
If ever you once gave your heart to Christ? I am afraid it is a done deal; a transaction you cannot undo, for you are never out of His sight–never beyond His hearing. He always knows what you are thinking; knows your words before you speak them.
O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am; You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.
Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking.
You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming,
and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know.
You know what I’m going to say long before I say it.
It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone.
You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me,
and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder.
Psalm 139:1-5 The Voice
To know the love of God…
Joseph Langford said,
“The same God who loves us as we are, also loves us to much to leave us as we are. Perhaps because we tend to hold to ideas about God that reflect our own suppositions and fears, more than God’s self-revelation. We reduce God to our own dimensions, ascribing to him our own reactions and responses, especially our own petty and conditional kind of love, and so end up believing in a God cast in our own image and likeness.
But the true God, the living God, is entirely “other”:. Precisely from this radical otherness derives the inscrutable and transcendent nature of divine love– for which our limited human love is but a distant metaphor. God’s love is much more than our human love simply multiplied and expanded. God’s love for us will ever be mystery; unfathomable, awesome, entirely beyond human expectation.
Precisely because God’s love is something “no eyes has seen, nor ear heard nor the heart of man conceived” (1 Cor 2:9), Mother Teresa meditated on it continuously, and encouraged us to do the same, to continue plumbing this mystery more deeply. To this end she invites us: “Try to deepen your understanding of these two words, ‘Thirst of God.;”
― Joseph Langford
Take note of His hands
His hand is “gently” on your shoulder.
(That is His tender Love, His “hesed*” reaching out.)
Then also note when He asks you in Isaiah,
Is it possible for a mother, however disappointed,
however hurt, to forget her nursing child?
Can she feel nothing for the baby she carried and birthed?
Even if she could, I, God, will never forget you.
Isaiah 49:15 The Voice
*Hesed: Hebrew word meaning “wrap around love”
Returning to Ground Zero
Yes, I tried to outrun His love, and He tracked me down.
On the lowest day of my life, as I was planning to take my life. I saw no hope anywhere, not even in the Church.
(I didn’t trust those people.)
But the truth was, I blamed God, for what people had done to me and those I loved.
But God’s love wouldn’t leave me there in my hopelessness, so on that day, I saw for the first time as my Heavenly Father wrapped me up in His love, that God couldn’t be held responsible for what frail human beings had done to me.
God’s love was perfect. Holy. Blameless.
And I realized, that Love, was a Love that would never stop chasing me down.
No matter how far…
No matter where you’ve run; no matter how far; God has never once forgotten you. He sees you. He knows where you’ve been. He will never stop loving you.
“Ironically, it was the father’s blessing that actually “financed” the prodigal son’s trip away from the Father’s face! and it was the son’s new revelation of his poverty of heart that propelled him back into his Father’s arms. Sometimes we use the very blessings that God gives us to finance our journey away from the centrality of Christ. It’s very important that we return back to ground zero, to the ultimate eternal goal of abiding with the Father’s in intimate communion. (pg. 243)”
― Tommy Tenney, The God Chasers: “My Soul Follows Hard After Thee”