Running away from God

Running away - photo credit Cakeface originals

I am sitting outside in the garden, watching my boy. Being outside is always a mixed blessing. I LOVE getting outside the house and having some sunshine, but it is always more physically demanding, and I have to be very careful not to overdo it.

 

Basically, I go outside, and then pray that my boy finds enough to occupy himself so that he doesn’t do anything that requires me having to walk to him or stop him doing something naughty.  That would mean we’d have to go back inside.  I would then spend the afternoon on the sofa beginning to recover, while he negotiated the easier-to-manage toddler hazards of the family room.

 

The stakes are high – his good behaviour and responsiveness to me will mean the difference between a rare afternoon in the sun together or an exhausted Mummy and indoor play.  But he doesn’t know this.  He’s a toddler.

 

Anyway. All is going well until he goes over to the gravel patch. He puts a stone in his mouth. This is now the third time that he’s done that, and I know that I need to knock this on the head. I summon up my very best Authoritative Voice.

 

“Okay, that’s a Time Out. Come to Mummy, please.”

 

We have a bit of a stand-off, and I try a deeper voice, to no avail. I figure I’m going to have to go over to him. I walk towards him. Immediately, he runs away, though still looking at me. He runs all of a metre away to the wall of the house, pressing himself against it. I look at him, then advance two steps towards him. He looks at me, runs a metre in the opposite direction, and presses himself against the wall of the garage.

 

I have to stifle a giggle. It’s so funny – that he is running away, in his toddler head, to the edge of the earth – and yet I am still there. My mind jumps to Psalm 139 – ‘Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.’ A parent – even one who can’t walk very far – is somehow still omnipresent, eternally big; God-like and inescapable.

 

I advance a step towards him again and this time he turns to the left and runs into his little den, behind the hedge. I pause. I need a strategy. I have been standing up for too long already, and am risking it with my short steps. I can’t afford to waste energy on ‘chasing’ him, but I need to follow through with the discipline.

 

I have a brainwave. How do you get a child to stop running away from you and come towards you?

 

Answer: you hide.

Child hiding

 

I hide a little out of sight. Sure enough, after approximately ten seconds, he comes wandering out – just to check.

 

That’s the thing. The absence of God is a more terrifying thought than the experience of His discipline.

 

The silences of God are somehow more frightening than His judgements.

 

“To whom shall we go?” say the disciples to Jesus. “You have the words of eternal life.”  It’s a hard thing to follow Jesus – but what can you do?  He’s the only place to go.

 

I’m not very good at being holy. And I’m not very good at suffering. I’m not gracious or serene. I rage, I run. I ask questions that God does not answer. I refuse to submit to the discipline of enduring suffering. I protest.

 

But this makes me wonder about God’s silences in my life. Could it be that they are not abandonment but enticement?

 

*************

I wait for my boy to come within grabbing distance, and then quickly pull him to me, sitting him down on my lap on the grass. He squeaks and struggles, but I hold him firmly and gently.

 

“This is your Time Out for putting stones in your mouth,”  I explain.

 

This is how we do Time Outs in our house – not on a step, for the simple reason that I can’t physically do the Supernanny technique of repeatedly picking him up and putting him back down when he tries to walk away from the naughty step. Instead, he goes on my lap and I put my arms around him and hold him close to me while I count silently for a minute.

 

It is, in essence, an enforced cuddle. I did wonder whether it would even work as a discipline measure, but it seems to, and I like this gentle form of discipline while we both calm down. I can smell his hair and he can feel my heartbeat.

 

His crying subsides. I breathe more slowly. He begins to stroke my arm – his comfort reflex.

 

I think about Hebrews 12:7, and how it talks of enduring all hardship as though it were God disciplining his children.

 

I wonder: if I stopped crying and struggling, would I feel the heartbeat of God?

 

Over to you:

  • Have you ever felt like you were running away from God?
  • Have you ever felt like God was disciplining you?

Photo credit: Running away – Cakeface Originals, creative commons licence
Photo credit: Child Hiding – InspiredinDesMoines, creative commons licence

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26 Responses to Running away from God

  1. Janice 18th May, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    What a beautiful post. Nothing in life strikes me as descriptive of our relationship with God as the one with our kids.

    I love your blog.

    • Tanya 18th May, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

      Thank you so much!

  2. Jo Inglis 18th May, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    God’s silences could be enticement not abandonment. I love the possibilities of this and thank you for your insights Tanya! I too got the chills reading your post in that certain way when you know God is speaking.
    There is one area for me where God seems to be particularly silent, which is His doing and His answer for the moment. It is something that most people seem to have an opinion on when I try to share it (how they would approach it differently). Whilst I wrestle with what God is doing, articulation often deserts me when speaking with others and I feel what I am trying to express can come across as self-indulgent.
    Being enticed back into God’s presence, so much better than raging or running – the challenge is to move on from our childish ways isn’t it?

    • Tanya 18th May, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

      Thanks for this and for stopping by. It is so hard sometimes to discern what God is doing in our lives – will pray that you hear the voice of God in your situation. 🙂

  3. Sarah Bessey 18th May, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    Absolutely beautiful. I got chills. Thank you for this, Tanya!

    • Tanya 18th May, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I am a huge fan of your lyrical, worshipful writing and thoughtful insights so this is a huge compliment. Many thanks!

  4. Penelope Swithinbank 18th May, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    What a beautiful and tender look into the loving-parent-heart of God. It is inspiring me to think differently about how I approach God or don’t. Maybe it is time to “stop struggling and crying.”

    • Tanya 18th May, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Thanks, Penelope! I’m so glad that it connected with where you’re at at the moment. I am being similarly challenged to stop struggling and crying… I think I am moving to a state now where there is a little less struggling and crying, and a little more sensind God stroking my hair. I pray He strokes your hair too.

  5. Lynda Alsford 17th May, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    This is so beautiful. I love it. It is similar to what happened to me. I lost my faith and walked away from God. I just gradually stopped believing he existed. What started me looking for him again was missing him. At first I liked what I thought was freedom to live my own life but then I started to miss him and so i looked for him. My faith since returning to God is so much stronger than it was. I am learning more about the love of God than I ever did before!

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Tanya 18th May, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      Thank you for stopping by and for sharing something of your story – it’s so encouraging to hear of someone who came back to God! It’s interesting that you say that you ‘missed God’ – it is my prayer for those in my life that have walked away from Him that they would also miss Him and want to return. Thanks!

  6. SC Skillman 17th May, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Your insights into the nature of God through this experience were very moving; their truth is born out by numerous examples. In the Book of Job, God’s presence was Job’s ultimate answer, and that alone enabled him to transcend his suffering. God’s silence is indeed far worse than His judgement.

    • Tanya 17th May, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      Thank you so much for stopping by! It’s interesting that you went to Job – I’m spending a lot of time in the book of Job at the moment and am finding it richly rewarding. You’re right – the thing Job most craves is not for his suffering to end so much as an audience with God. When he does finally get it – he doesnt have that much to say any more!

  7. sandra delemare 17th May, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    This is just so beautiful, Tany.
    Bless you for finding creative ways to discipline your son.
    This illustrates one of the blessings of being a parent – we get some insight into the loving fatherheart of God.
    Bless you, Tanya

    • Tanya 17th May, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      Thank you! I agree, it is a real blessing to be a parent – like an extended meditation on God’s unconditional love for us.

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