Running Away

I packed my stuff up like a new-age Tom Sawyer and headed for the door.

Guest Contributor / 9.14.21

This article is by Alexander Sosler, Assistant Professor of Bible and Ministry at Montreat College:

When I was a child, maybe 8 or 9 years old, I ran away from home. I packed my stuff up like a new-age Tom Sawyer and headed for the door. I lived on a cul-de-sac in a rural Ohio town. A handful of crab apple trees lined the corner of the street. I walked the 50 yards or so to those trees and sat down to make my new home. Like Jonah underneath the tree God had grew, I complained. I was done with the injustice of my parent’s house. I wasn’t going back. Surely, this act of defiance would wake them up to the reality I saw. It seemed like hours, days even, that I was gone—my limitless, newfound freedom, away from rules and regulations, free to roam the world as I saw fit.

But like Jonah, it grew hot. I got hungry. I needed a snack. I lasted about 10 minutes. I grabbed my bindle and headed home.

The book of Romans tells me that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. I’m not sure that’s true. Maybe persecution or trials can’t. I know angels or demons are under God’s command. Perhaps even famine or nakedness are useless to separate me from God. But I like to think that I can separate myself. I have will and desire and choice. God can’t control me. I’ll run away.

And when or if I come home, I know there’s judgement to face. There are consequences. The time has come. As I approach the porch from my time away, I imagine the disappointment in my mom’s face—who has surely seen me the entire time. The jury stands in judgement ready with a verdict. There are limits to the goodness of parental love. There are bounds on the bounty of grace.

But I also imagine my mom looking at me from the porch like God looks on me when I try to outrun the love of God. Something between, “That’s cute” and “You dummy” — but always with a welcome home.

The poet Sir Walter Raleigh wrestled with guilt and judgement — feeling like I felt: in a jury awaiting the verdict after exhausting the goodness of God. Here’s what he wrote:

For there Christ is the King’s attorney,
Who pleads for all without degrees,
And he hath angels, but no fees.
And when the grand twelve-million jury
Of our sins, with direful fury,
‘Gainst our souls black verdicts give,
Christ pleads his death, and then we live.

Even when the twelve-million jury of our sins brings charges — the wages of sin is death — and we see our souls as the very stain they are — corrupt with sin — the verdict comes out with Christ’s death: Innocent. Forgiven. Clean. Righteous. This is the power that nothing separates us from. Christ is the attorney here, defending us with his death that paid for our sins. So, if he’s the one who has the authority to bring charges, and he’s dealt with those charges, then I ask again: who can separate me from the love of God? Satanic condemnation means nothing in God’s court. My outward circumstance? Tribulation? Persecution? Myself?

Listen, you may be running. You might think you’re condemned — like God is waiting to snuff you out. You may even think you’ve done everything in your power to separate yourself from God.

But there’s good news: You’re not stronger than God. No power or principality or angel or demon is. Nothing present or things to come can. Not even death itself. God’s grip on us is far stronger than any strength we have. I run. But Jesus is faster.