Just a few days ago, our littlest dog escaped out the front door. He began running. This wouldn’t be the first time. He usually runs to one of the neighborhood yards, and I can catch him due to his built in nature to find a tree and relieve himself. He just can’t help himself. So, as usual, I shut the door and ran after him. This time he didn’t stop. He ran for half a mile. Me running behind him, calling him back. Every so often he’d stop and look at me, as soon as I got too close…. he would run again.
I ran until my breath was giving out. I ran until my knees felt like they were going to buckle. I ran some more. I kept running because for the first time, our little dog was leaving the sanctuary of our neighborhood and heading for a busy intersection. As much as I wanted to stop running, I couldn’t. I had to catch him. He didn’t know any better. He had no idea what he was running to.
The more I ran, the more my feet ached. I was barefoot, not having time to grab shoes as I darted out the door after him. I was in pain. I was scared for him. I was angry at the neighbors, whom I know by name, watched as I ran after him…. not a single one stopping what they were doing to help. I was angry at the cars that didn’t stop. All of the people who would just go on about their way, watching me run… no clue that I had been running barefoot on the hot Florida asphalt for half a mile. No clue that I was already emotionally compromised by the fact our elder dog had a stroke just two nights before. Clueless, they drove on by.
In my head I had to answer the questions…. “how long will you keep running?”…. “when do you stop and turn around?”…. “why is no one stopping?”…. “why is no one helping?”… “what about the kids? I left them alone.”… “what if something happens with our other dog, while I am out running after him?”.
It was then, just as I was about to give up, that she stopped. She pulled her car off to the side to block him. She started talking to him, to try and distract him from me. He stopped, briefly, but then darted across the street. Before I knew it, I was running into the street, hand up to stop cars. I had no idea, she was coming right after me. We cornered him. I tackled him. Then, for the first time, I caught my breath. Bless her, she offered me a ride home. She was shocked by how far I ran. She was surprised none of the people we passed on the drive home helped me. She said “I have a runner too”. She knew. She sympathized.
I imagine, that is how God feels. When he sees us take off from the safety of his shelter, into the world. The world that doesn’t care, that doesn’t stop to help, that just watches as we make poor choice after poor choice. We look back at him, seeing him pursuing us. We know that we are doing the wrong thing, yet we keep running. Further and further. Faster and faster. I imagine, that it pains God watch us make these decisions. Coming after us, knowing that others need him as well. The Good Shepherd who leaves the flock to find his one lost sheep. I imagine, the pain I felt running pales in comparison to the pain Christ felt as he was beaten, carried the cross, and was hung. The wages of sin.
I just wanted that little dog to turn back to me; to recognize me as that owner whom he dotes on, follows like shadow, and misses terribly when I leave. I just wanted to bend down, open my arms and shout his name, and see him turn on his heels running back toward my arms.
I imagine, that is what God wants.
Lord, I hear you. I’m not running away from you. I’m running toward you.