He escaped from the shopping cart like a racehorse bolting out of a starting gate.  Running wildly through the dairy aisle, he’d passed the yogurt and cheese before I caught up to him.  “Stop!” I yelled frantically as I reached out to grab his shirt.  But I missed, he picked up speed, and he rounded the bend near the margarine case to go running off toward the salad bar.

“Wow – he’s fast!” the florist remarked as she watched my 2-year-old son Justin race past.

Tell me about it, I thought.  It seems like I’m always chasing him.  He ran away from me in just about every public place I took him that had enough space for him to run: stores, parks, restaurants, and even our church (where he was almost “baptized” when he ran into the gate on the side of the baptismal pool, toppled it over, and fell toward the water until I caught him in mid-air by the seat of his pants).  He escaped from every way I tried to rein him in: strollers, carts, holding my hand.  Why couldn’t he just stay close to me?  Why couldn’t he understand how much better that was for him?  

As children of the ultimate Parent – God – we run away a lot, too.  But God is a Father who cares.  No matter how many times we run or how far we go, He’s right there chasing us.  As Psalm 139:5 and 7-10 declares about God, “I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too – your reassuring presence, coming and going. … Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?  To be out of your sight?  If I climb to the sky, you’re there!  If I go underground, you’re there!  If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute – you’re already there waiting!” (The Message).  Jesus’ parables of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son also show God’s passionate pursuit of His children.  He’ll stop at nothing to catch us.

So why do we run away from our heavenly Father?  It’s not that different from why my son runs away from me:  

We think something else seems more exciting. When Justin saw a big truck pull up outside a restaurant, holding my hand seemed boring in comparison.  He ran away from me and nearly got out the restaurant’s front door, drawn by the allure of the powerful vehicle.  Lot of things can attract our attention more than God does: a job, a romantic relationship, a hobby, and even watching TV.  We may think we’ll be more fulfilled running after these things than we will be spending time with God.  But when we devote more time and energy to something else than we do to God, we actually end up less fulfilled than ever.

We’re afraid of what He may ask us to do. Justin will sometimes run away from me when he sees me bringing his coat to him.  He knows that means I’m about to ask him to leave the house with me to go somewhere.  If he doesn’t want to stop playing right then, he’ll try to flee – even without knowing where I want him to go.  When I chase him and finally get him into the car, he usually ends up having much more fun on our outing than he’d thought he would.  It’s the same with us and God.  We avoid praying about certain people or situations because we fear God may tell us to do something about them that we don’t like.  We don’t serve others in the ways God leads us to, because we’re afraid that saying “yes” to God will mess up our lives.  We run away in an attempt to control our lives, to set our own agendas.  But we miss out on crucial opportunities to grow when we run away from what God wants to ask us.  We’ll never discover all the great things He has planned for us unless we stay close enough to listen to Him.