I was never one of those kids who threatened to run away from home. Don’t get me wrong, I was not the perfect child; at around age 3 I realize that I could scream at the pitch that the alarm system believed was breaking glass and the alarm would instantly go into panic mode. With tricks like that up my sleeve, why run away?
My parents knew they had nothing to worry about with my empty threats to run away. They knew I’d be tired or hungry or want someone to kiss my boo boos before I got half a mile away. So any time my brothers or I would threaten to run away when we didn’t get what we wanted, they’d say, “Good luck, have fun!”
They knew that what we had with them was better than the stale peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we’d packed in our small knapsacks.
I’ve spent years wrestling with doubt, struggling to believe that God is who he says he is, trying to understand what he wants of me and the world. In the midst of one of my darkest seasons of doubt and fear, a wise friend asked if believed there were answers to the questions I was struggling with. I told her I did, and she gave me some of the best advice I can remember:
“Rachel,” she said, “I am not afraid, and more importantly God is not afraid of your doubt. I don’t worry that you’ll find the answers to these questions in Buddhism or secular humanism or atheism. God is not threatened by your searching, because He knows everything else will prove disappointing. Like the prodigal son, he knows you will come back home.”
God, like a good, welcoming Father, knows that any other home I should try to run away to will prove disappointing by comparison. He knows that what he offers is better and fuller, and he has nothing to fear by allowing my free will.
Even more- like any good Father, he won’t let his small, incapable child actually run away into the dangers of the world outside her home. As soon as he sees me preparing the day’s supply of PB+J, he watches and follows. I do not run alone, and I cannot run away. He is ever near, whether I want him there or not, whether I notice him or not.
For the most part, today, I rest contentedly in my Father’s home, rarely considering my decision to come back home rather than continue to wander outside the gates. But I see my friends pack their bags hesitantly, scared to go but unable to stay. They sneak out the back with pillows tucked under their sheets, pretending for as long as they can that they’re still home.
Dear friends, if you’re running away today, hear this: Jesus goes before and beside you. He is not threatened by your doubt, by your searching for hope in other places. He will be here when you are ready to come back, and he will not leave you whether or not you want him to. You have nothing to fear, and any search for truth and light and love is worth it (and I firmly believe will lead you back into the open arms of Christ).
So go on. Make an extra sandwich for the road, and keep in touch. Running away isn’t always a lost cause.