When I was younger, I remember getting extremely angry at my mom. In my anger, I threatened to run away. I was rather shocked when she did not plead or beg me not to. So, I stomped back to my room, grabbed my pink Hello Kitty suitcase and proceeded to fill it with all my important possessions–stuffed animals. I then told her goodbye and marched out the door.
How often do we find ourselves walking out on God? Maybe we feel He has let us down or there is a "rule" we do not want to follow. Maybe living a life for Jesus is just too controversial in our world or it interferes with our dreams. So, we drift. We stop reading our Bibles, we stop returning calls or texts from our Christian friends, and we definitely stop going to church. Self-sufficiency becomes the name of the game. Fulfilling all our desires is what we live for. But somewhere along the way, we realize we have drifted too far. We recognize our relationship with God was the only time we felt truly satisfied. It was the place where we felt true love and acceptance. But how do we come back? And if we take that first step, then what?
First, we have to remember that our sinful hearts continually battle against wanting our own way rather than surrendering to God's way. To begin the journey back to God, we must first acknowledge our sin. It is pride that took us away from the Lord, and it is pride that keeps us from returning. Humans hate to be wrong. We hate admitting it, and we hate apologizing for it. And we will go to great lengths to avoid it. This is where we must begin though. Psalm 51:17 says, "The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God." We see the sin of pride begin in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve questioned God and chose their own selfish desires. They walked away, but God began the path of restoration through His promise of a future Messiah (Genesis 3:15). That path of restoration is for all those who will come to Christ. Whether you never truly knew Him or you decide to return to your faith after a long time away, God beckons for you to come. He asks for your repentance and covers you in the blood of Christ's forgiveness.
Second, we can't deny that there may be consequences for our sin while we walked away, there was for Adam and Eve as they were condemned to work the ground, experience pain in childbirth, and banishment from God's presence in the garden (Genesis 3). But the promise of restoration is always there. It is through Jesus that redemption and restoration are possible. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Only in Christ will our hearts find true rest. All you have to do is come. God never left, and He is joyfully awaiting your return. He is ready and waiting to draw you back into His loving embrace. All God wants is your heart, your whole heart, broken and humbled before Him. Friend, lay down your pride and run to the Father. Then, seek a trusted friend who follows Christ and ask them to hold you accountable as you read your Bible again and seek gospel community. Go back to the basics that kindled your first love for Christ. Jesus will show you the way back. It will be filled with delight because it is filled with Him.
In case you were wondering what happened when I ran away, I basically spent several hours marching around the perimeter of our fence and sitting out on our swing set. Deep down, I knew that running away was not the answer. Sure, I wanted my way and did not like that my mom was preventing it. But what I needed most was a parent that loved me enough to say no; a parent who gave me the time to realize my way is not always the best way. What I love most about this memory is that I knew she was watching me from the window. I knew she never took her eyes off of me. And let's be honest, that is why I didn't go anywhere. No matter how mad I was I knew she still loved me and would welcome me back. When I and my Hello Kitty suitcase made it back inside, the reunion was sweet, because I felt unconditional love, not condemnation. I didn't get my way, but I learned a valuable lesson about God's love. Come home, friend! The Father is waiting with open arms.