I am reading a book for the Lenten season Giving Up Something Bad for Lent, by James Moore. It basically talks about giving up those things that we desire not to return to, even after Lent. I am reading a chapter entitled ”Give up running away.” I really enjoyed this chapter as it spoke volumes to my inner-being, causing me to do some self-actualizing. It reminds me of the narrative found in the Gospel according to Luke 9:10-17 (read it), where we embark on the story of a younger son entreating his father for his inheritance early, leaving home only to have squandered it all on the strip (night life), women of the hour and alcohol. Meanwhile, after losing it all, he became homeless, full of guilt and shame for all he had done. Having to dine with the pigs, he chose to go back home and seek forgiveness. His father welcomed him back with open arms, put the best clothes on him, with the best meal and a nice piece of jewelry. The older son gets angry and indignant to the point of being belligerent, reminding his father all he has done for him and his family.
Here we have two sons, one stays away out of feelings of unworthiness, shame and guilt, while the older son refuses to go to the celebration and welcome his younger brother home because he believes he was entitled to receive the blessing and the best. In essence, he stayed away because he felt worthy due to all he has done for the family and his father. Either way, both brothers were running away rather than dealing with their issues head-on.
Often times, as believers, we run away from our problems rather than to it. Granted, problems are here to stay. Moore reminds us that we do not live in a problem-free world, nor a problem-free marriage or church. We spend too much time recklessly wasting precious time because of blame, guilt, shame, anger, and most of all, unforgiveness. No matter the problem, life happens! We must deal with it head-on.
Another great story in the Bible is Luke 15:1-3; 11b-32. Our greatest teacher is Jesus in dealing with issues face to face. In this epic story, Jesus and the disciples head towards a remote and quiet place to discuss the Apostles’ previous mission trip. The Bible says the crowds get a whiff of it and follow them to Bethesda (a desolate place). The Disciples notice the crowds and get worried that it was getting dark. Jesus instructs them to assemble the multitude into small groups. The Disciples wonder how they are going to feed the crowds of people; they thought it best to send them to their villages for shelter and food. Jesus has a plan: “You feed them.”
Too often, we want to send folks away or run away when life gets too hard. Jesus never ran away, he coped with hardships, injustices and met challenges head-on, always trusting and believing in God as his source. As believers, we cannot pass the buck we must go through it, not around it. We must believe that God has our back at all times. Moore, reminds us that “Jesus used available resources.” We too must learn to survey our circumstances, most of the time everything we need is typically on our person or nearby. Everything the disciples needed was right before them. Sometimes tunnel vision prevents us from seeing what is around us because of distractions. Jesus turned a problem into an opportunity. Jesus found a way to turn a burden into a blessing. Likewise, we are made in the image of Christ. We too can turn our situation around. We must always look for opportunities even in the most pernicious circumstances. What are you running from? Are you running from going back to school because you feel you are too old or not educated enough? Are you trying to run from opening that business or starting that ministry? Are you running from a broken family relationship out of pain? I challenge you to stop running and embrace destiny.
The author is senior pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of Baltimore