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Is God a runner?

Has anyone ever mocked you for running in public? Years ago my parents moved to rural home. Every morning they’d lace up their running shoes and sprint through the country-side while mist rose slowly over the meadows. This type of seemingly aimless physical activity confused the neighbors. Where ya runnin’ to? Got nothin’ else to do? Hey, city freak, real work burns calories too, you know. My folks kept running. Some habits must not be sacrificed on the neighborhood mocking block. Because nothing and no one can stop a true runner.

Turns out God is a fierce and fearless runner too. Ken Bailey first got me thinking about God as runner. I’ll never forget his rich and culturally infused version of: “The parable of the compassionate father and his two lost sons.” Towards the end of the story, the astoundingly loving and generous father runs towards his wayward loser son coming home. I’ve always pictured this a lonely scene: little house up on a hill, the father bounding uninhibited down a path towards his son. No obstacles or bystanders. No mocking or crowds. Dr. Bailey, who spent most of his life in the middle east, paints me a different picture.

Everyone in town knows how deeply the younger son disgraced his father. Anger mingles with desire to never see this shameless loser again. No luck. The hated fellow returns broke and hungry, hoping for a meal. He must get to his father before an angry neighbor throws a large pot in front of his feet. The broken pot symbolizes a permanently broken relationship which means official separation from your people. Father knows this tradition and longing for restore relationship he must get to his sin before a grumpy neighbor does.

Seeing his son from afar, he does what no respectable middle eastern man would do. He hitches up his fancy robe and runs. He runs, exposing his bare legs to public ridicule. He runs through narrow alleys, leaping over mud puddles, through the crowded market. He races past mocking neighbors, gasping women, startled children. He runs and no one dares stop him. He runs because he alone can restore this relationship and establish peace with the community.

God is like a running father who races towards broken relationship with fierce and fearless determination. God runs towards hungry, broken people with rehearsed speeches. God runs towards regrets, confusion, excuses and hurt. God runs into reckless histories and lame apologies. God runs because he has waited long for reconciliation and can’t stand to be separated a moment longer. God runs because he has processed his hurt and is utterly free to re-connect. God runs because he knows how to be vulnerable.

I close my eyes and see him running towards me. Our eyes meet. He picks up speed. My heart starts pounding. He is racing towards me! I am sensing the cost of this race, my own unworthiness. I am not sure how to respond. I tend to hide and people don’t race towards me, I make sure of that. But right now I am stripped of my wealth and hungry, have no energy to lift up my shield. He is smiling, whole face lit up with genuine love. Suspicion is melting. He looks genuinely thrilled to see me, is almost here. I can’t hold it together. His vulnerability shatters my rehearsed speech, the way I’ve pictured reconnecting. He is coming for me with fierce intention. I am letting go, yielding to be found, seen, known, embraced. My father is a runner and nothing and no one, not even stubborn old me is stopping him now.

runner

suzie

7 Replies

  1. So good, what a beautiful image of our Father running toward us. I got goosebumps as I read. It is always fascinating to me how cultural context amplifies passages we tend to gloss over a bit. #livefree

    1. Astrid Melton

      Yes- the cultural context enhances the stories. One of my favorite books is Jesus through middle eastern eyes by Kenneth Bailey- great stuff. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Oh Astrid, as always, your words are beautiful and like poetry. Thank you for this! I too, can see God running towards me. Gives me chills. #livefree

    1. Astrid Melton

      Wonderful. It’s a heart changing image worthy of frequent pondering and particular meaningful for those of us w/ father issues. Thx sister.

  3. I love this, Astrid! It’s always amazing to put well-known Bible stories back into their proper context. It’s incredible how much more meaningful they become! Your writing gave me chills today–in a good way. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 #livefree

    1. Astrid Melton

      Totally. I have long been hooked on Ken Bailey’s stuff- great cultural insights that have reframed a lot of stories for me.

  4. Astrid! YES!!!!!
    and THANK YOU!
    so right on…I didn’t know that about the broken pot… no wonder the Father ran!!!
    This is special! love you!

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