All four of my kids have at one time or another struggled terribly with going to school. I think I cried just about every day the first year that they were all finally there full time. Every morning was a battle. And just about every afternoon when I picked them up I had all of their teachers walking towards my car wanting to discuss their day with me before I could even turn off the engine. It was emotionally exhausting and I carried much guilt and shame over my messy family. We were doing our best at home with our children but all the world could see was their lack of self-control, stubbornness, and emotional breakdowns.
There was one particularly difficult day that I will never forget. My son was in second grade and quite tired of being told what to do. We had been having some discipline problems with him that we were working through so it was not surprising that he had blown up at his teacher that day. As he stood in line after recess he began to bounce the ball that he was holding. His teacher kindly asked him to hold the ball. This one little request was his tipping point. He bounced the ball as hard as his little arms possibly could and took off running. The principal was standing nearby and caught sight of him as he headed off campus and thus began on foot in pursuit of my rogue eight year old. My son barely made it out the gates of the school before the man tackled him. He was then carried back to the school office where the principal sat with his arms wrapped tightly around my kicking and screaming son, repeating these words, “I will not let you go. I will not let you go. I will not let you go.” The struggle was so fierce that the office staff called me in for back up.
When I heard that my son had tried to run away and was throwing another one of his outrageous fits, I was angry. Thank God that we lived twenty minutes from the school because after the week that I had already had with him, I’m not sure how I would have handled the situation had I not had that time to cool off. My drive there was filled with desperate thoughts. “How could he embarrass me like this?” “What are we doing wrong?” “Why can’t he just get his act together and do what he is told?”
Something beautiful happened on the twenty-minute drive into town. The Lord began to soften my heart towards my little boy. He began to show me how very much I often act like my son was acting but I just hide it better. I thought about Jesus’ unrestrained love for me in the way that he relentlessly pursues and tackles me every time I try to run. He holds me while I kick and scream and tells me “I will not let you go” over and over and over again.
I arrived at the school to a tear faced, mussed hair boy in the arms of an exhausted principal who had been committed to holding my son down until I got there. And by God’s grace my heart just wanted to love him. And so I did. I took him to the car and we went to lunch. We didn’t even talk about what happened. We just ate our fries and made jokes. We enjoyed each other for the first time all week.
After bringing him back to the school to finish his day I sat in the parking lot wondering if I had done the right thing. My son had run away from school and I took him out to lunch. Everything I’ve ever known and had been told as a parent told me to do the opposite. For once I stopped listening to everything that everyone was shouting at me about how to raise my children and I just listened to God. My son had heard enough of the law of try harder and do better and he broke. It was time for him to know that he was loved, even if he never got any better. No strings attached.
Little did I know that God wasn’t done teaching me about grace that day. While our family piled in the car to go to out for the evening, I noticed that the dog was missing. It was dusk and our little dachshund was off running in the countryside chasing rabbits, oblivious to the fact that she was coyote bait. We couldn’t leave without finding her. My four kids and I spotted her in a field down the road and immediately jumped from the car and raced after her. She had caught the scent of a rabbit and was oblivious to the mob that was hunting her down. For close to an hour we chased her and pleaded with her to come back. As the sun began to fade we grew more and more concerned and our calling and pleading and searching became more intense. We had already lost several animals to coyotes that year and were not about to give up on her.
The pursuit ended with a desperate tackle and our little dog locked tight in the arms of my daughter. We had given up our evening plans because of the search, thorny stickers had vandalized our socks and shoelaces, but we had our little friend back safe in our arms. The hugs and attention that she received that night were a picture of Jesus’ tenderness toward us. Nobody lectured the dog. We were just happy that she was home safe.
I remember that day fondly as “The Day Love Pursued.” If my little family was willing to give up a piece of themselves for one little dog, or the principal of the school was willing to tackle my son, how much more does Jesus relentlessly pursue those who are running; those who have their nose stuck to the rabbit trail, oblivious to his call?
Romans 5:20 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Did you read that? While you were sinning God came after you! While you were still selfishly pursuing your own interests, finding your worth in your work, using people, over eating, abusing alcohol, and giving God and the rest of the world a cantankerous kiss-off, he was stubbornly seeking to redeem you. The Hound of Heaven hunted you down in the midst of your unrighteousness. And he continues to pursue you. This is how he shows his love for you. He continues to chase after you every time you bolt.
You have been his all along. There is no escaping his tight grip, no matter how big your mess is or how much you think you have it all together. He is holding on tight, whispering in your ear “I will not let you go. I will not let you go. I will not let you go.” You are His beloved.