“The Hound of Heaven” is a long poem written by Francis Thompson, which describes God as the One who continually seeks the writer even though the writer keeps running from Him. It echoes the words from Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
To know there is nowhere you can go to flee from God, is that a comforting thought? Or a disturbing thought? For Thompson, it was a dreadful thought, until he finally surrendered to God’s relentless love.
To be pursued can be a frightening thing, conjuring up images of someone chasing after you in a dream. But, being pursued by someone you love summons an entirely different feeling of warmth and joy. To be pursued by pure love with a relentless certainty by a God full of grace is our fate. There is nowhere we can go where we are not known by God, in fact, even before we are born, we are known by God [Psalm 139].
To be so fully known, to be so fully certain of God’s love is a reoccurring miracle in our lives. And yet, we are like wandering sheep. The littlest things distract us and we wander off in every direction in a relentless pursuit of something we can hardly name. And most of the things we pursue are poor substitutes for the life that God envisions for us.
As we enter the Lenten season on February 22nd with Ash Wednesday, we will enter into a relentless pursuit together. We will wonder together what it means that we can go nowhere without God. We will ask what it means to have a God who “hounds” us. Through story, Bible study opportunities, daily devotions, and worship experiences, we will pursue the truth that God is relentless. And we will acknowledge that our questions, our longings, our wanderings can be relentless as well.
Perhaps by the end of Lent, we may agree with Andy Mcilvain, who writes in his blog Enacted Word, that
“God deserves more than our attention; He deserves our affections and focus. He doesn’t just want us to listen to Him. He desires us to know Him. He wants us to pursue Him.”
This Lenten season, I hope you will commit to a relentless pursuit of your relationship with God. We have a variety of experiences available for your Lenten pursuits and pray that you will join in as this community of faith relentlessly rejoices in the height, depth, width, length, and strength of God’s love [Ephesians 3].
Dear Heavenly Father,
like a hound you pursue us with your grace and love. There is promise in that, but also a reminder that we need to surrender. This year, during lent, may we embrace your pursuit of us like a child waking from a nap yearning for the reassuring warmth of a loving parent’s arms.