You Can Run, You Cannot Hide
Running away is child’s play. At one time or another, for one reason or another, all of us have thought about running away. Thankfully, most are able to grow up, grow out of childish ideals, and take care of business.
Word for it: Perseverance: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
The first time I “ran away” was to the next-door neighbor’s house when I was four. Late that night I was ready to go home and make sure everyone was okay. It would be hard to put into words how disappointed I was that no one seemed to be distressed over my unhappiness.
Where the idea came from to leave home at such an early age is a mystery but apparently, I must have issued a challenge so my folks packed a bag and put me on the front porch. That is not recommended in this age of “weirdo competitions” but my dad always joked that he never expected to have a missing child when he came back to check on me! I should note that this was in 1964 when a wandering child did not immediately conjure up visions of abductions and unspeakable evils.
My older siblings were in school and seemed so smart and important that I decided to follow them to school one day…like Mary’s little lamb, willfully to the slaughter. Confidence in my ability to go it alone dissipated when I got to the four-lane highway. It comes to mind when I reminisce what the motorists must have thought to see a tiny child standing on the side of such a busy intersection but, not-to-worry, Mom was on my trail, switch in hand. I got a whipping all the way home and never tried it again.
Two women were in their yard as we went by and I was making a ruckus, to which they chided my mother for spanking me. She asked them if they would rather see me splattered all over the road. I think the possibilities of being “splattered” had more impact than the whipping!
Those were two instances in Columbus, Georgia, but by the time we got to the Panama Canal Zone while I was five, two of my three older siblings were on board with me to make our own way in the world. For some reason, as we were preparing what we would take with us, steak knives seemed imperative. One of the siblings was a boy so perhaps that has a bearing.
As we were going out the kitchen back door, after packing said steak knives, our garbage collectors went by and someone mentioned that they might tell on us, causing capture before getting very far. I know it was not my concern because I never did think too far ahead or much about consequences, but we chickened-out, nonetheless. I was so itching for adventure my disappointment was almost tangible.
The last time I ran away was again in Georgia at age thirteen. Now, I must tell you, there is a huge difference in running away when you are four and when you are a “young lady”.
Shirley was a friend I took up with at school. She was fifteen, wore wigs and gobs of make-up, and was still in the seventh grade. Shirley taught me how to cut school with boys who could drive!
When circumstances at home became nonconductive to my rebellion, Shirley told me I could stay at her house. Her mother worked nights, her older sister was more interested in boys than we were, and her two younger brothers did not care what anyone did as long as they got what they wanted.
Well, Shirley and I slept in the top bunk and I went to bed hungry. The next morning, there still was not any food in the house; Shirley’s mom was not pleased about having another child hanging around, and I was homesick. To this day, I can feel the emptiness and loneliness in Shirley’s home. In my mind’s eye, it was a dark and bare house without any food. Today I would be giving food to a family living with those circumstances. I never knew what had happened to Shirley’s dad but I remember that her mother was a nurse. That poor woman obviously having a rough time with four kids to tend made me realize how good it was to be in a home where I hoped to be welcomed back.
I walked from Shirley’s house with a heavy mind that morning, hiding in the ditch when the school buses passed by; I guess the possibility of the garbage men reporting me still in my head. After all these years, I can feel how miserable I was that morning.
When I got home, both parents were there waiting for me. I don’t know where they thought I had been or what I had done, but they were ecstatic to see me return in one piece! It was more of a, “What happened and how can we help?” reunion, which was like heaping buckets of guilt on my head! I kept trying to assure them that I was fine and they had not done anything wrong. That was the truth. I was fine once I was home. I realized in that one experience what wonderful parents and providers they were.
Those and many other mistakes could have turned out worse, a whole lot worse, but I have seen God’s hand over me like a protective shield many times. As an adult, when I make a decision and get in to a difficult situation, He is there. Sometimes allowing others too much circumference has brought on trouble but He is there protecting and nudging to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
For a myriad of reasons, but for these obvious ones, I relate to Jonah’s predicament in the Bible. There are things we do not agree with and do not want to do but running away only prolongs the inevitable and usually causes problems not otherwise present.
Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh and preach to the heathens because he harbored hatred for the way they had been treating his people for years. Instead, he decided to run away. Jonah cannot be faulted for being human and he really must have thought he could find a place God could not see, but God does not recognize “on the lam”.
Jonah was thrown overboard of the “escape ship” he hired because the sailors were sure he was the cause of the storm that was going to get them all killed. Unacceptance is demeaning, but with Jonah gone, the storm ceased and the sailors praised a God they had not believed in a few minutes earlier. Jonah was finally on his way via a “big fish” and had inadvertently created converts that he probably never realized.
Jonah made it out of the belly of the big fish still resenting his mission to warn people he hated. The story does not indicate fear of these people, which would be understandable, even expected, considering their cruelty. Jonah proselytized, people repented, but Jonah never missed a beat in his griping and complaining.
Although he accomplished God’s goal, I ponder why God chose Jonah. He must have needed to learn that God has hope and patience for sinners just as he does the sanctified.
Perhaps he needed to know that he, Jonah, indeed, could make a difference.
In all the excerpts, explanations, debates as to authenticity, and sermons I have heard and/or read concerning Jonah’s experience, I do not recall expansion on the fact that Jonah began changing lives before he left the ship and became a toy for marine life.
Whether intentionally or accidentally, every person makes an impression, leaving a mark.
Once given the privilege of life each of us has opportunities to influence lives. Good, bad, mediocre or indifferent are the only realities.