I jogged up to the track, stopped at the steps, and began to stretch out before my run. The sun was sinking behind the hills, and pink and purple hues tinged the deepening blue sky. The track - the whole area, really - was deserted. A sense of peaceful stillness lingered over the place. I smiled.
Just then, something caught my eye. Coming around the corner was a small, fluffy, white dog. It trotted along happily, stopping here and there to sniff the ground. It worked its way in my direction, wandering in a zigzagged and haphazard, yet determined, pattern. My first thought was, "Oh! I guess it's not as deserted as I thought." And I glanced around the track, looking for its owner. No one was there. "Hmm, maybe they're walking around from the other path. . . the dog probably just ran on ahead," I mused, and continued to stretch. The dog got closer. I did another quick scan of the area. Still no one followed.Finally I got up and slowly walked toward it, whistling to get its attention. It paused to look at me, then continued its haphazard scurrying. I tried to approach it again, but as I did, I frightened the little thing and he darted away. I tried crouching down and whistling, patting the ground and calling out to it, anything I could think of. It ignored me.
I waited until it got caught up in some serious ground-sniffing, and slowly walked up to it. I wrinkled my nose as the unpleasant odor reached me. Suddenly aware of my presence, it whipped its head around and looked me square in the face. I don't know who was more startled. From a distance, the dog was kind of cute. Almost lamb-like in appearance. Up close, though, the bulging black eyes and crooked nose made for a face that was hard to find. . . endearing. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe this dog was homeless. It was smelly and, well, kind of ugly. But just as soon as these (unkind) thoughts entered my head, I caught sight of a collar, buried in the fuzzy white fur.
I slowly reached out, hoping it would let me check for a tag, and hopefully a number I could call. But alas, it darted out of reach and started to wander away again. This continued several times... I slowly approached, it darted away. I whistled, talked to it, tried to calm it into cooperation. No success.
Finally I sighed, gave up, and went for my run.
But I couldn't get the little, ugly white dog out of my head. For some reason it really upset me. Someone out there is missing their dog! And even though that little face was not the most attractive to me, I'm sure it's precious to them. And the dog is probably feeling scared and lost. And what if it runs into the road, and. . .Should I have done more? COULD I have done more? Why did it have to run away from me?
Then I started to wonder... how often do we act like that little white dog? We wander off, away from what we know, away from where we belong, and we become lost. We scurry around, happy at first with what we think is freedom, but before long, we end up scared, confused, and running in a haphazard zigzagging pattern, trying desperately to find our way "back."
And then, when Someone approaches us, stoops down toward us, and offers help, we shy away. We rub our faces around in the dirt and pretend we "have it all together." We don't need help. In fact, we're scared of the Help. We're scared of what that Someone wants from us. And so we keep running. Running away from safety, comfort, and love. Running into busy streets, into dark, cold nights, into the unknown. And all the while, that Someone is following us, calling out to us gently, so gently as to not scare us away... He's approaching us slowly, hoping we'll give Him a chance and let Him catch us and take us back to where we belong.
Like the little dog, we're smelly and dirty. We're ragged and worn. We've become ugly from the sin we've held onto. And yet, somehow, the Someone who seeks us looks past all of that.
How often must He cry out in anguish, "Why do you run from me?! I just want to help you. I just want to bring you back home, where you're safe and you're loved! Can't you see that you're lost? Don't you know the danger you're in? You have no need to fear Me. Please, stop running..."
And how often do we ignore His gentle, earnest pleadings, and continue to run straight into the darkness, into danger and pain that could've been avoided had we just yielded to the gentle Seeker?
I'm so glad that God is more persistent in seeking us than I was in seeking and returning the little white dog. I'm so glad that instead of seeing us as we are, in our ugly, sinful, messy states, He sees us as His beautiful children.
But, still, despite His love, His earnest seeking, His persistence... there comes a point where He has to let us go our own way. He can't "catch" us against our will. He can't protect us, love us, and bring us home, if we decide to keep running. I was pretty distraught over not being able to help that little, mangy dog find its way home. How much more must God's heart break when He has to hold back, restraining His love and protection and keeping Himself from gathering us up into His arms when we refuse His offer?
I don't want to be like the smelly, ugly, lost little white dog. I want to let Him catch me and bring me home. I want to be washed clean and made beautiful in His love. I don't want Him to have to ask, "What more could I have done to save her?"
I hope, if you're running, that you''ll let Him catch you. I hope He won't have to ask that question of you, either. I hope you'll find yourself in warmth, safety, and comfort of the gentle Seeker's arms. I hope you'll let Him carry you home. Don't keep running. Please.