I am a runaway.
When I accepted Christ at the age of thirteen, I recall the pastor celebrating my decision and describing its impact on my life. He spoke of how my heart would long to hear from God. The pastor told me that I would seek God in the Scriptures and that my kindness, forgiveness, and thoughtfulness would reflect Jesus. The pastor’s words should have given me confidence and hope about my relationship with God.
However, his words fueled my fear of disappointing God and not meeting His expectations. I was not well trained in spiritual disciplines, and my faith was immature. Sunday school stories made God feel angry and judgmental to me.
As I entered the baptism waters before our congregation, I tried to put all my worry behind me and cling to the promises the pastor described.
I had barely made it through the car ride home after church when bickering and frustration with my siblings bubbled into anger that burst from me. Immediately, I was so full of shame and grief over not pleasing Jesus that I ran away. I ran away from my family, and I ran away from God. I also ran away from believing there was anyone who could guide me.
Running Away from My Faith
This was the first of many times I would run away from my faith because I felt alone, lost without understanding spiritual disciplines, and lacking guidance to draw me home to the Father. The twists and turns of the human heart are filled with our ancestors’ amnesia for forgetting that our God knows our hearts and paths.
His plan is for the Spirit to help us, intercede for us, and bring us back to the Father. The following verses help me to communicate to leaders and children in the sensitivity with which we need to care for the tender new relationships children have with Jesus and the Spirit.
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, to be with you forever—”John 14:16
We are never alone. The world applauds autonomy, but God designed us for dependence on Him. Maturing followers of Christ must be aware of modeling dependence on God. This is evident when we display seeking God with the Spirit in prayer, the study of Scriptures, handling our emotions around disappointments, or supporting another. We can counter the world’s celebration of being self-reliant and independent, where Satan can stir up glory in our minds and greed in our hearts.
A teenager recently wrote to her mother, “I am so thankful each morning when I come down the stairs and see you reading your Bible and praying. It spurs me to meet with Jesus.“
Jesus knew His apostles and followers were anxious about being left alone. So He spoke the words of John 14:16 as a promise that through the Spirit, we have a helper and guide on God’s narrow path. Our children need to be reminded the Spirit helps us when we practice the disciplines to be aware of His prompting.
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”Romans 8:26
When we lose our way, we can also lose the words to describe what is occurring in our hearts and minds. Romans 8 is a powerful reminder that the Spirit intercedes where our words and emotions fail. We can find it hard to process our feelings and frustrations into words. The Spirit takes the raw groanings of our hearts and emotions and communicates to God on our behalf.
I’ve learned to create stillness before God by repeating aloud, “Be still and know I am God.” Focusing on my breathing and dropping one word from the phrase each time, I repeat it until the only “be” is left. Then I sit and let the Spirit comfort me. Modeling a way for children to talk to God and be still helps them build their relationship with the Spirit and seek God.
“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”Galatians 4:6
The Spirit leads us to move toward God, our perfect Father. We know we have arrived at the destination at the end of most paths because there will be a home, park, marker, or person who lets you know you made it.
The first time I ran away, I recall crying so hard that sobs caught in my throat. Words couldn’t escape, and my mind raced with distorted thoughts of being unlovable, unseen, and unworthy. I was messy, dusty, tear-stained, and worn out from imagining God’s disappointment when I knocked on the house door at the end of the road.
The Spirit never left me in my sadness. Instead, it directed my feet to a path that my mind didn’t recognize until the door opened. Blinded by the sun and with my eyes almost swollen shut from crying, I was welcomed inside, invited to sit, and given a cup of water to refresh me.
Softly a cool washcloth wiped away my tears as my grandma whispered, “Child, you have walked a long way.” My grandma comforted me, listened to me, and prayed for me in the minutes that followed. Then, I was surprised as my mother came through the door with a suitcase and sat in the chair across from me. I could not have anticipated what happened next.
She laid the suitcase down, opened the locks, and revealed clothing packed for her and me. She knelt before me and took my hand, saying, “Wherever you go, I go too. I have been searching for you and love you. We can continue on this path together or go home.”
The work of the Spirit can feel so mysterious, but reflecting on this memory, I see the beauty of God in the person of the Spirit. A faith journey toward God is possible through the power of the Spirit, who is always with me. The Helper guides me toward God, whether the path is through valleys or on mountain peaks. And Abba Father receives the prodigal wanderer at the end of the journey.