Sometimes it feels like we’re born to run. When things are getting too difficult, or we’re not getting our way, or we’re feeling bored or tired, or we’ve just had to do too much “adulting” for one day, we might be tempted to listen to the world’s promise that a better life is waiting for us somewhere beyond our current situation or circumstance.
We start thinking that out there – somewhere – we’ll be free. Happier. Understood. Appreciated. Guess we’d better pack our bags and be off.
Plus, people like me (peace makers and recovering people pleasers) know the choice they would most like to make when faced with a “fight or flight” situation: RUN.
But I don’t think this is necessarily a flaw in our character.
Running just might be one of the most natural things we were born to do.
I recently found this reminder that running away feels necessary at times among my youngest son’s things while cleaning out his closet. I’m guessing he wrote it around the age of six, and I’m pretty certain it was in response to some injustice he couldn’t bear: having to clean his room, or walk the dog, or take out the trash. My response to his announcement that he is “going away to Russia”?
“I’ll miss you. Take a coat. And be home in time for dinner.”
How could I respond so calmly to my six year-old’s declaration that he wants to run away from me to the other side of the world?
I understood how he was feeling. And if you’re at all like me, you understand, too.
Think back to when you were a child and try to remember the sheer delight of running. Feeling the wind in your face and hair as you sped along to the next exciting discovery in your neighborhood or on the playground. Eric Liddell, the Olympian whose life inspired Chariots of Fire once said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Can you recall that sensation? The joy of running?
Or maybe you’ve continued to be a runner all of your life. My daughter Emily loves how powerful running makes her feel. Running can make us feel strong and gives us the sense that we are going somewhere.
Jesus himself would often slip away to the wilderness to pray. (Luke 5:16) And we are encouraged to follow His example – to slip away from the demands on us. To rest and pray. To be refreshed and restored.
So in some ways, we are born to run. Running feels good and right. Maybe that’s why for some of us, running feels safer at times than staying to deal with the hard, uncomfortable or painful things that can appear to block our path. The response to run and hide is as old as humankind – think Adam and Eve in the Garden. (Genesis 3:8)
But it’s important to see the difference between running AWAY from the difficulties in our lives and running TO the One who can give us the strength we need to handle those difficulties. With grace, forgiveness and healing.
When we run first to God, we’ll have the strength and stamina we need – even to run toward hard things.
If you’re like me, the thought of running toward someone who has hurt you might give you knots in your stomach. But that’s the example we see again and again throughout Scripture. One of my favorite times is when the prodigal son’s father sees him from a distance and runs to embrace his lost son. (Luke 15:20) A son who has embarrassed him, disgraced the family, lost his inheritance, and is returning to beg for a position as a servant. The father is having none of that. He wraps his son in his own robe, puts a ring on his finger, and welcomes the runaway home with open arms. But don’t miss the significance of the father granting permission for the son to run away in the first place. He understood the son’s desire to escape.
If you must run, remember that the One who loves you knows your heart and is waiting for you with open arms.
So the next time I feel like running away from a person or situation I find difficult or uncomfortable, I won’t feel bad about my desire to run. Instead, I will remember that I have been born to run straight into the arms of God. He gives me permission to take a time out. He’s awaiting my arrival and he has exactly what I need to be restored so I can return to the race He has marked out for me. Instead of dreaming about running away, I will think instead about who I should be running to: “The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)
I’ll take my coat. And I’ll be home in time for dinner.