Keith B. @ NonUnknown.com
“We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:9
My dad enjoyed hunting. He grew up in rural south Mississippi, poor, the middle of seven children. I remember him telling us how he only had enough money to buy two or three gun shells at a time. “I couldn’t afford to miss,” he would laugh. He taught my older brother and I to shoot only when we knew exactly what we had in our sites.
Dad and my older brother bonded over deer hunting. They shared a love for the outdoors, the thrill of a hunt, and the triumph of outsmarting a white tail. Dad took us to a hunting club near the Homochitto River, reveling in the time away from the stresses of life. Until we got stuck in the mud one very rainy weekend. Really stuck deep in the woods, with no one around or to call, no immediate way out. Both axles of his truck flush with the ground, wheels sunk into the soft mud.
Dad and my brother told me to stay with the truck and disappeared into the woods. I waited for what seemed like hours. I determined the only way out was to follow my own path. Gauging direction from the light of the early morning sun, I set a course toward what I believed was salvation. I could only reach safety on my own. Hours later, lost and wandering in the woods, panic set in, drowning out all other thoughts. Exhausted, sitting against a hard pine tree, I thought: “how could my father leave me?”
Abandonment remained a theme in my adult life. When confronted with fear or panic, I followed the same direction as I did on that day…my own. I spent the next thirty years rushing directionless through ever darkening woods, following the path that caught my attention. Desperately trying to erase that loneliness that stifled any peace or happiness in my life. I would catch glimpses of the path God had for me, finding His peace and joy at different points in my life: marrying my wife, the birth of my boys, moments of celebration and contentment. And then I would face another moment of dread or fear and veer off His path to my own.
Years of bad choices, wrong directions, and being knocked down by life led me to one single moment of clarity. My own will led me to constant anxiety, failure, and ultimately abandonment. Facing the end of my marriage, having abandoned my own children, I had been knocked down by life. Even in that place of hopelessness, God hadn’t abandoned me. My wife reminded me of the results of my own choices.
“I just know that you will never be happy until you stop running. You run from me, your family, from everything. You won’t ever be happy until you stop running from God,” she said.
In Romans, Paul penned his letter to the church in Rome, reminding them of the consequences of following their own direction and abandoning God. In chapter one he stated:
“Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.”
God abandoned me to my own foolish thinking, allowing me to follow my own destructive path. Until I fell exhausted against that tree after wandering aimlessly in the woods. Until I received that moment of clarity in the form of a rebuke from my wife.
Life pursued without clarity or direction leads many to an empty woods, wandering lost and aimlessly, pursuing roads that lead to loneliness and panic. My friend, Sean, described it best, holding his hands far apart.
“See, we are here. And God, He is way over here. Now, we can either move towards God or away from God. There is no sitting still.”
Which way is your life moving? Do you want to change direction?