This morning as I was driving my four-year old daughter to daycare, we were listening to the book of Jonah via the audio Bible. For whatever reason my little girl has been smitten with the story of Jonah for the majority of her life. But make no mistake, I don’t mush up the story so she can receive it softer, I give her the full account with the grimy details of what’s actually going on. Let it be known that my little girl knows for a fact that Nineveh wasn’t notorious for slapping people with fish, that Jonah was a racist, and that there was no candle and table in the fish’s belly (Jonah fit in that fish like a wet burrito in an ankle sock).
So as we listened to the first chapter of the book, I would translate for her where the story was during the parts of the text that weren’t as obvious. When the storm came up and began to ravage the ship that Jonah was sailing to Tarshish in, I told Karsten that this was the storm that God sent. Without missing a beat she replied, “Yeah, because God was chasing Jonah.” This happened 14 hours ago and it still hasn’t dislodged itself from my mind and soul today.
It is my tendency to think about my relationship with God in Christian vocabulary words like “Justification”, “Regeneration”, and “Propitiation”. To be sure, I believe that those words are important, and they add a depth and richness to the ideas that they describe. They represent more than just a word, they hold within them a host of ideas and examples and applications. But, for all of their worth and for all of their meaning there are times that they can grow cumbersome. Sometimes I don’t need to know that: God justified me through the penal, substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross so that I could be positionally righteous in His eyes, thereby restoring the personal relationship with Him that was fractured by both the fall of man in original sin and then perpetuated by my everyday trespasses and failures stemming from the wicked and rebellious nature that I possessed from conception. All of that is true, and I’m glad I know and understand it, but sometimes I just need to know that “God is chasing me”.
Getting wrapped up in the “words of the Faith” is different from getting wrapped up in “the Faith”. Knowing is a poor substitute for being. And truly, it is easier to “be” when I consider that I am loved by the kind of God that can watch me turn away from Him and His instructions and still chase after me out of His grace and mercy, not His anger.
I encourage you tonight friends, don’t get lost in the complexities and vocabulary so much. Learn those things, know those things, and let those things inform you and aid in your transformation. But, in the dark night of the soul, or in the discouragements of life, or in the moments of failure that will inevitably find us steeped in regret and depression – in those moments, see God as the one that is chasing you because He loves you too much to let you go anywhere except where He’s built you to go. David understood this, even though we have a tendency to skim over it. Hear David’s confidence in the ability of the “Hound of Heaven” to track us down with His love:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
Psalm 23:6 ESV