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.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139: 7-12
Every day on my lunch break I take Martha for a walk through the neighborhood, August sun soaking into her black coat. She’s a big smiling solar panel and I breathe the fresh air deep. Both of us are happy for the heat and vitamin D and the chance to move our legs. The quiet side street that we live on allows for a leisurely pace and I let out Martha’s retractable leash so she can wander on ahead of me to explore all the smells. We approach an intersection with a busier thoroughfare and I pull tight on the leash, retracting in the cord. That silly dog would walk right into traffic had I not yanked her back. She looks back at me peeved. “BUT THE SMELLS.” She would say if she could.
Jesus you are everywhere. You are in a crowded bar. At my desk at work. In some guy’s apartment. On the internet. There is nowhere to go where you are not there. You are everywhere I go because you are in me. And I sold myself into your slavery long ago. Before I knew just how much it would hurt to love your people and live among them.
And there are days when I tug ever so hard on the grace-tether on my back, lunging all impulsively at the intoxicating thing before me. And there are days I just want to run. To escape your label. To deny your name for the sake of that intoxicating thing. But even as the rooster crows in my darkest hour I see you looking at me. There are no breaks from you.
Why do you relentlessly pursue me with your staring eyes from all angles? Even in the moments when I forget you, block you from my mind, hours later you flood the memory of it and I know you were there then too.
What kind of love is this forced upon me? What kind of glory that I cannot unsee, filling all the earth, holding all things together? What kind of hold is it you have on me that won’t allow me to find satisfaction in any other thing?
I can’t unbind this grace-tether from my back that ties me to you and draws me back when I wander, sucks me in when my impulses are my guide. There is nowhere to go where you aren’t there.
“Yes God, I love you” I say, ashamed at how half-hearted we both know I am. I cringe, expecting a harsh word of rebuke or punishment. But your response catches me off-guard.
“Take care of my sheep.” You say. No condemnation. No shame.
I don’t know what to say. You chased me down to tell me this, as if I’m worthy, and put a robe and ring on me to boot.
But what if I’m I just a sheep who needs taking care of? Who will take care of me?
“Do you love me?” You ask.
Of course. You will take care of me. I knew that.
“Yes Lord, I love you.” A little more sure of myself, but still with knees shaking.
“Feed my lambs,” You say.
…with what? I just have a couple of loaves and a little bit of fish. Barely enough for myself.
“Do you love me?”
And now I’m just frustrated with myself and my doubts because of course I know you’ll provide. Of course I know your grace-tether will hold firm and the miracle worker and mountain mover follows me always. “Yes. You know this. I love you.”
“Feed my sheep.”
And all my what-if’s and how’s and doubts and fears seem to lose their footing within my chest as your gaze pierces mine, scarred hands out-stretched as if to hold me.
“Follow me.” And I can’t imagine that I have any other option.
I look down at the tether that has so often seemed to me like a chain. But when I think about the gentle, scarred hand that holds the end of it, it doesn’t seem that way. You can draw me in all you want, Jesus. The closer, the better.