God’s love reaches farther than you can run away

Cats are constant at Safe Haven Farm. Except for a few recent years, we have always have a kitten or two around. The most recent litter we welcomed had seven, although unfortunately the other wildlife around the farm didn’t allow that to last very long. We have owls and snakes and coyotes, and four of the seven vanished overnight. But we still had three. Until we woke up a few days ago and found only one remaining.

I was pretty torn up about that. This litter had made it so long, and I’d hoped that they would continue to do well. And even when we lost the four, we still had the three others. But only one left? Sad.

So yesterday morning when we went outside and found all three of them back like nothing had happened, we were pretty happy. The two beige kittens had gone off exploring and took their time coming back. Having them home again was a relief. And it got me thinking about homecomings in general and why they mean so much to us.

A wide-eyed kitten at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A wide-eyed kitten at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Joel 2:12-14.

That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God as before.

Everybody reaches that point in their life where they need to go home again. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from or even how old you are. Home is a part of us on the very basic level, and we all have to go back. That is, assuming we’ve left.

The older I get, the more I see the importance of making God your home. I love my house. I love my family. I love the close friends who mean so much to me. And while they all provide me with a certain level of comfort, they can’t match the safety and the refuge I find in my Lord. He’s always there for me. He always knows what I mean, whether I say it or not. He knows when I hurt, which is important because I rarely talk about that sort of thing out loud. He’s always around to remind me that He’s big enough for whatever problem I’m facing, and I can’t ever go far enough away that He can’t find me.

But He’s easy to run away from. Not saying you can actually outrun Him, but we all like to try. He’s just more stubborn than we are, and He won’t ever let us go.

I don’t think we can grasp the joy God feels when we turn around and come home after we’ve been wandering. Imagine being reunited with a close friend you lost contact with. You knew they were out there, but they just weren’t interested in talking to you anymore, and then all of a sudden, they’re back again. And your friendship can pick up where you left off, and you can start living life together again. Then magnify that a million and a half times.

If you’ve left home, if you’ve run away from God, turn back now. It’s tempting to keep running, believing that your actions outweigh the love He has for us, but that’s a lie the enemy whispers to keep you running scared. God’s love is stronger than anything else, especially your screw-ups.

But don’t just turn your face back to God. Don’t just make a show for the sake of people around you. God doesn’t care how impressive you look or how many words you can pray or how well you know your Bible. What matters to God is your heart.

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Does your shadow ever leave?

I am always amazed at how big God is. It’s wintertime now, which means it’s the best time of year to go stargazing, and if you don’t mind dodging wildlife, you can see more stars than you can imagine from my driveway. It’s those clear, crisp, quiet evenings when I’m trying to count the stars I can see and utterly failing because there are so many that make me wonder at God.

A popular late-night talk show host was talking to an actress on his show the other evening, and he is of the opinion that if there is a God, He has more important matters to deal with than us. But the Bible tells us differently. The Bible says God made everything and holds everything together and still wants to be a part of our everyday lives.

And this isn’t something that just happened in the New Testament. No, God was in relationships with His people starting in the Old Testament, in the very first book of the Bible.

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Genesis 46:3-4.

“I am God, the God of your father,” the voice said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.”

This is a promise that God made to Jacob, who is considered to be one of the Patriarchs of Israel. It started with Abraham, who I mentioned on Wednesday. Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob. And for those of you who know the Bible, you probably know where this passage comes from. Jacob’s youngest–most beloved–son Joseph had established an abundant and prosperous life in Egypt through God’s grace (read the story; Genesis 37-50; it sounds long, but it’s one of the most amazing stories you’ll ever read), and he had invited his father to come down and live with him because where Jacob lived was in famine.

Here’s the thing: Egypt was always considered a bad place. It was a place of pagans. It was a place of evil. And Canaan, where Jacob’s family was, had been given to his family. It was the Promised Land. So it’s no wonder that Jacob didn’t want to leave.

So this is what God told him: Go anyway. And God promised that He would go with him. God promised to go with Jacob into Egypt and promised to bring his family back out again. And if you keep on reading into Exodus, you’ll find out that’s exactly what God did.

But what stood out to me this morning is that no matter where we go, God will be there. And if God has told us to go somewhere, He’s going to go with us. There are examples all throughout Scripture about how people have tried to run from God (Jonah, being the best-known example), but in every case, what they discovered is that you can’t run from God. How can you run from Someone who is everywhere?

You can’t. It’s like playing hide and seek with your own shadow. You can’t get away because it’s always constant. Maybe you can’t always see it, but it’s always there. And it’s the same way with God.

So what does this mean today?

Well, for one, don’t try to hide from God. That’s silly.

And two? If God tells you to do something or go somewhere, don’t be afraid. He’ll go with you no matter where you go. He’ll be standing right beside you in those moments when you have to make a choice. He’ll be cheering for you when you do what He’s called you to do. He’ll be there. He promised.

In Jacob’s case, God told him to go to the worst place imaginable. God told him to go to a foreign land that had been reviled as an evil place, but even in that evil place, God was with him. And that same God who kept His promise to Jacob and all his family is our God today. He could be trusted to keep His word back then; we can trust Him to keep His word now.

So don’t be afraid of making hard choices and stepping away from your comfort zone. God doesn’t live in your comfort zone, and He’s waiting for you get out of it and come to where He is.