(For Those Who Have Lost Their Way) Come Back
Wow. It has been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. Goodness. I have a lot of catching up to do on the many things I meant to write and should have written but didn’t. Be it the Lord’s will, I’ll be able to. One of the things that’s taken up a great amount of my time is my new novel. More information will come as it's closer to a finished product.
Now that I’ve got that personal introduction out of the way, it’s time for me to dive right into the subject matter I intended to discuss.
One of the reasons I haven’t written blog posts was because my head wasn’t into it. My heart wasn’t into it. I was challenged. I faltered. I lost confidence. I became more focused on what people thought and less on what God was telling me to do. What He was telling me to say and write. Over time, I even became incredibly bitter. Looking back, I recognize when and where a spiritual battle began for me on multiple fronts. Where I sought peace but found war. Where I sought love but found conflict, confusion, and pain. When I shouldn’t have spoken, yet spoke. Where I had direction and focus, but my trajectory shifted and vision blurred.
As children of God, we all have a purpose, path, something meaningful we are meant to contribute to His glory. God’s will for us is both general and specific to the individual. Our general instructions, plans, and guidelines (for all of us) is clearly laid out in the bible. Our individual talents are directly connected to what we as individuals have to offer in regards to our services/contribution to the greater plan. The bigger picture.
What will happen at times is we’ll get distracted and confused. God laid out a path for us with markers, guidelines, and signs. However, we’ll see something shiny and walk towards it. We’ll see something delicious but forbidden and go for a bite because it’s pleasing to the eye. We’ll have preconceived notions as to where we’re supposed to go and head in a direction we want to go without consulting God, guidelines and warning signs be damned. We’ll want something; and though the path set for us offers something a trillion times greater than we can possibly imagine, the path seems so long and harrowing, the destination further away in our minds than it really is, so we pursue the lesser thing because it’s closer and looks like what we want or was looking for. Sometimes, we’ll even get confused and believe we’re on the right path. Sometimes, we’ll get confused and believe that what’s in front of us is what God intended for us. Sometimes, we’ll see something someone else is getting and want that, when God specifically prepared something different for us. Sometimes we’ll rebel, become impatient or simply disagree with God, and arrogantly pursue our own course expecting a better outcome (Good luck, kid!). Sometimes, tragically, we’ll take directions from wolves or listen to the sheep instead of the Shepherd, and find ourselves lost.
I don’t know a single person who hasn’t stumbled, tripped, or drifted off of their path (except Jesus). It’s a human thing. It’s what we do because of the sin nature. It’s incredibly challenging to tame the tongue (James 3). Our eyes drift to things and people where and on whom they shouldn’t hover. Our hands find things for which they shouldn’t search. Our feet pursue that which should be avoided. Our hearts are rigid from coldness, apathy, bitterness, anger, and hate. This is what we suffer or regretfully entertain because of sin. That is why we need Jesus Christ.
The message I want to share today is for those who have drifted longer and further than a simple tumble, trip, or stumble. For those who know in their hearts that where you are today is a lot further away from God than you were days, weeks, months, years ago. When it is best for us to be/get closer to God and maintain a relationship through prayer, quiet time, reading the bible and meditating on what the Word says, we find ourselves disconnected from God and His children but in the world, entertaining worldly things.
I want make two points.
Point one: For those who have lost their way, come back. Come home.
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
(Luke 15:11-24 ESV)
At first, when we stumble or drift, it’ll start out small. We won’t think much of it. It’s just one time. It’s something insignificant. It’s just a TV or movie show. It’s just a game. It’s not that big of deal. “A little white lie doesn’t hurt anyone,” so they say. So and so did this and look, he’s fine. However, in time, a tiny shift in our trajectory will point us further and further off course up until the point when we turn back and can barely see the path we were on. Sadly, where we drifted to leads to loss, confusion, pain, misery, anger, fear, bitterness, and sometimes even grievous injury.
In addition, we feel shame, because we know we’re wrong. We’ll want to hide our sins and inequities from others. We’ll feel dirty and won’t want to be seen as unclean. We withdraw. We’ll hide our filth not realizing that everyone else is just as filthy in comparison to God, but God loves each and every one of us in spite of our inequities. God’s arms are wide open to each of us, no matter how white his robes are and how much mud, feces, and grime is on ours. Everyone’s dealing with their own challenges and struggles and sin. However, a confession of sin to God will humble us. His forgiveness will take away that shame. Repentance will point us back on the correct path. The blood of Jesus washes us clean of sin before God. Check your spiritual bank account. Jesus bought your debt. Breathe.
Come back to God. Come back to your Father, who loves you and would be pleased to have you back. All it takes to get back on track is prayer. Humble yourself in prayer and surrender. Don’t settle for the pods of the pigs. There is nothing out there in the world that will prosper you. There is a greater inheritance waiting for you in Jesus.
Point two: Your Father, your King, your Creator, the one who loves you, is pursuing you.
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12-14 ESV)
Whether we realize it or not, God is making strides to get our attention because He understands the consequences of us going astray. Sometimes He introduces people in our lives. Sometimes it’ll be a blog posts posted online that catches your eye. There will be something in our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed that will convict us. It’ll be something on television that’ll give you repose. Sometimes it’ll be a few lines of a song. There may be dreams that shake us. Sometimes, the enemy will be allowed to press us to our limits until we have no choice but to go back to the one who is above all. God knows that we believe and how much we can endure before running back to Him.
What hits me, as a believer, is my soul. God presses into my soul. I can physically feel His disapproval through the Spirit. And as of late, it ached so much inside of me. It felt like a fire burning from the inside out. I could feel it in my shoulders and back. It was about a particular issue that I have impatiently pursued and, most recently, pursued the wrong way. I sometimes feel other things, which I won’t go into.
God pursues us through the use of His children. I’ll give you two examples of my personal experiences:
Years ago, I had a woman who kept coming to my job. She’d drop by at least once every month or every other month to visit me, share some of her documentation, and invite me to church. I can’t remember exactly what she said, only that I was waning between going and not going. I was interested but also wasn’t. I wasn’t at the point yet in my gradual path to God. But He was using them to tug me closer and closer to Him.
Months after that, a different person came and talked to me about God. That person told me to “come home”, having known I had some history of going to church. This statement impacted me in a way, I realize. Because I haven’t forgotten it. I’ll never forget being told to come home. The world is not my home. I am not of this world. I’ve known this for a very long time, and long before I ever was a Christian or knew what it meant to be one. Not long after that, my gradual progression towards God changed. It was only a matter of time before I was regularly watching sermons online. I went from that to watching sermons online and attending a church as often as I could. I got baptized. I went through communion. I went through all the motions. However, it wasn’t about all of that. In my heart, I knew that God was my home. In my heart, I knew that God is real. He seeks us out. He loves me.
The point I’m making is, God reaches out to us in a way fitting who and where we are in our walk, and what He’s called us to do. God pursues us in the middle of our circumstances and shows us the right way. He calls out to us. He redirects us. And sometimes, when things are really bad, He gives us a way out, when there is no other way. After which, we can’t help but to run to Him screaming and praising and clinging on to Him for dear life and in praise.
He won’t force us to come back, even though He can. But He encourages us and makes a way, because He is the only way that leads to life.
With that said, I’ll close with a little story:
A group hiked their way through a thick forest in the middle of the night. The sky was thick with clouds and drizzling rain. In the front was the leader. He knew every twist and turn of the path, and placed bright beacons on either side of the narrow path they were headed on so everyone behind him could follow. He warned of the dangerous animals and terrain that existed outside of the markers and encouraged everyone to keep to the path, not drift off, and stick with the group. Everyone was given a torch.
One member of the group saw a faint light deeper into the woods, off of the path, and wondered what could be there. Perhaps it was a clearing and would get them through and out faster. He calculated. It didn’t look like more than ten or twenty meters into the woods. He could take a quick look, just to see what it is, and come right back. He was sure he’d be fine. So, he stepped off of the path and investigated. One of the people in the group called him not to go off the path. However, he said he was going to stay close and just take a look.
Ten meters in, he noticed that the light seemed to slowly move away. Confused and curious, he moved further away from the lit path and pursued the unknown light. It moved away even faster. He pursued it even further. That’s when he stepped into a shallow hole. His other foot tripped on slick mud. He twisted and fell. His ankle snapped. He dropped his torch and reached for his ankle, letting out a pained cry. The torch was put out by the wet pool he’d mistakenly dropped it into.
In the thick darkness, he turned his attention back to the path and saw the dancing lights of the group’s torches moving away. He’d walked a lot further and deeper into the woods than he thought. He was about to call out to his group when he heard footsteps coming from deeper in the woods. He looked back and saw a creature crawling forward. It had six furry legs and two beady eyes. A third eye opened, emanating a bright light similar to that which he was pursuing. Suddenly, it became very clear to the man that this creature was what he was pursuing. It crept forward and opened its mouth. The light revealed a mouth full of razor sharp teeth.
The man cried out in terror. As he did this, the creature rushed forward to pounce. However, it stopped cold in its tracks, slipped, fell, regained its footing, and then slowly back tracked. The man looked in complete shock and awe. He turned around curious as to what deterred this creature from eating him alive. And that’s when he saw his leader. The leader stood with a torch in one hand and a staff in the other. The staff had a long, sharp blade at the end of it. The light of the fire reflected in his eyes, giving him an intimidating, otherworldly presence. The creature backed away further, took one final look at the injured man, and then fled.
The leader looked down at the man and said, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.” He helped the man get his foot out of the hole and supported his weight out of the woods and back to the path. Two members of the group took each of his arms around their shoulders and supported his weight down the path. One other member helped re-set and wrap his ankle. Together, they proceeded forward down the path. The man told them about the creature, its light, the dangerous terrain, and the leader saving him. No one else left the path. Everyone praised the leader.
Father in Heaven, thank you for loving us. Thank you for seeing past our inequities. Thank you for having patience when we stumble and act in rebellion and stubbornness. Thank you for the second, third, fourth, fifth, ten-thousandth chance you’ve given us. We are so grateful and so unworthy of your grace. Thank you for taking us back with open arms and embracing us when we’ve rejected you and your wisdom. We humbly surrender to your will, your Word. We honor you and praise you, Father, forever and always. In Jesus’ name. Amen.