I read somewhere last week that the Bible is all about people running away from God. It got me thinking, especially about my own life. My mother accused me of always wanting to run away, probably because at 17 I dropped out of school to sail with the navy and to get away from everything for a while and figure out some things in my head and heart. Even when I came back home again, I was always looking to leave, trying to find ways to go somewhere else. I always attributed this to having itchy feet, not wanting to set down roots but wanting to see the world and try different things. Now when I married my wife, she wanted to keep her roots in Thunder Bay, our hometown and I kind of went, "Oh no!" The joke in our home is that I brought God into leaving Thunder Bay again by following his call into ministry.
The thing is, as I look back, I was running away from my roots because I often felt I didn't fit in. I was a dreamer in a culture that was focused on the practical, I loved theater and the stage because I could lose myself in other peoples' lives and ways of interpreting the world around me. Part of it was also a running away from God because I wasn't sure I could live up to who he wanted me to be, and because I often felt the the world of faith was too small and restrictive.
Yet as I think back, I can see that no matter where I went, no matter how much running I did, whether physically or in my head and heart, God was always right there using this urge to run to help me see how big he is and how big the world of the Christian faith really is. In running away, I was always running to something else. I needed to figure out what I was running to. In some ways I'm still running away, not from a place, but from ways of understanding and seeing God that keep God small and ineffective and I am running towards a way of understanding God that allows me to see him as the God whose ways are not my ways, as the God who holds all creation in his hands and yet who became one of us. I ran from seeing God only in the church and through words, to seeing a God who is at work in the world bringing hope, justice, forgiveness, grace and more, and who calls us to join him in his work. To a God who is greater and more wonderful than I can ever imagine; and I have a pretty amazing imagination!
I've been part of the Ministry to Seafarers (M2S) for about a month and a half and I am working with a wonderful team that has been helping me learn how to see God working in the lives of seafarers, even if we only get to connect with them for a couple of hours, or even minutes at a time. The team at M2S has reminded me that we are part of a greater network of centers around the world from many different Christian traditions that are engaged in the same ministry; and even though we may never meet each other, God is working through all of us to be his presence in the lives of the seafarers. I've had some pretty cool conversations with men who worship God from various Christian traditions and am learning to appreciate their faith and ways of understanding God.
In our church we are fellow-shipping with a growing number of people in our community who are from various Christian and cultural traditions who are interested in who we are and perhaps becoming part of our church family and I realize that they are also helping me gain a bigger picture of who God is and how he is working as I get to hear their stories of who they are and how God has brought them here.
Are you running away; where are you running to? If you're reading this, likely you know Jesus in some way and I invite you to try running towards Jesus and God. No matter where you run, God is there, so invite him to run with you and show you more of who he is and he'll bring you to the place you've been running to.