Romans 1:20 states that we can see the power of God through His workmanship, through all He has created. I look at the birds soaring through the air, there He is. I see a delicate flower, straining towards the sky, He is there. I see God everywhere I look. I especially see Him in movies that I watch and books that I read. I was watching a movie called "Brooklyn" the other day; it was about a young Irish woman who comes to America from Ireland. It takes place in the 1950's and she has been sponsored by a priest in Brooklyn to come live and find work there. She leaves her whole life behind, mother and sister and embarks on a new life in a new land. There is a cost to her decision; loss of family, loss of homeland. But time heals those wounds and she discovers a rich life and new love, until she has to journey back to Ireland. She settles back into old ways and falls back into old patterns. What will she do? Return to the land of new beginnings and new life or stay in that old place that seems to suck her back into what she had escaped from before, a life of poverty and judgment.
Oh come on. You see the corollaries don't you? A priest provides passage to a new life, a fresh start. A decision must be made, to follow that new road or to stay on that old path. New purpose and love is found in that new life. But the old life finds a way to try to worm it's way back in and woos with the familiar. Seriously, you don't see it? Ok, so Jesus is that priest, actually our High Priest. He offers us a new life, provided by His death on the cross. We make that decision to be 'sponsored' by Him, to enter into new Life and receive a love that we have never experienced before. We leave our old life of sin and death behind. But old habits, the old sin nature tries to draw us back in. What will we do?
I swear, we all believe that once we make that decision to follow Jesus we will never go back. Go back to what? I don't care if you came from the lap of luxury or from the ghetto, nothing compares to the love of Christ and what He has blessed us with. But stumble and fall we often do. And backslide, yes it happens. I have written before what I see backsliding as. I always thought is was what it sounds like, we are walking up this hill and it must be muddy or something, because we start slipping down that hill and going back the way we came. God showed me that backsliding is worse than that. The actual picture is of a mule digging it's heels in and refusing to go forward. Oh, we'll never do that!
It happens. I was delivered from a life filled with drugs, alcohol and cheap relationships. I was a liar, a cheater and cared about no one but myself. Why in the world would I ever go back to that? Well, I did. I returned to that old homeland and let old habits and patterns have their sway. My husband and I both walked away from the grace and mercy of God and lived according to our own desires, the desires of the flesh. We went back to drinking, lying, cheating. We left our children in the dust and skipped merrily along on our way to hell. Here is what Romans 6:4-6 has to say about that, "[it is impossible to restore to repentance] those who have once been enlightened [spiritually] and who have [a]tasted and consciously experienced the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted and consciously experienced the good word of God and the powers of the age (world) to come, [b]and then have fallen away—it is impossible to bring them back again to repentance, since they again nail the Son of God on the cross [for as far as they are concerned, they are treating the death of Christ as if they were not saved by it], and are holding Him up again to public disgrace," (AMP). Can you picture that? I sit here weeping as I ponder the depth of those verses. Those who have once tasted of salvation, if we turn our back and return to our old ways, we crucify Jesus afresh. I did that. I, who tasted of the Lord's goodness and love and experienced His joy and peace chose to return to the pig sty of my sin. And not only that, but I may as well have taken up the hammer and used fresh spikes to nail my Saviour back on that horrible cross.
When we are in sin we never picture it like that, do we? We just say I'm doing it my way. I'm tired of all the restrictions and just want freedom to live as I want. Hey, He's a forgiving God, there's grace...no problem. Oh, Lord forgive us for treating your grace so cheaply. Lord help us repent of using your mercy like an antibacterial wipe. Let's wipe those germs off and go back to living like we want. I did that. I almost died in my sin. One car wreck in a street race away from eternity. I was there, and by God's grace and the power of prayer I did not die. But my life got worse. It's funny now, looking back. We think we have it all together. And we take these detours, thinking we're on the road to good times and kicks. But, yes, to quote a cliche, we are on the highway to hell. I thank God now that even as I walked away, with a flip wave of the hand, He never left me. He was like that parent 'letting' his child walk to school alone, all the while following at a distance to make sure they got there safely. That child is so proud of the fact that they made it, see dad, I could do it on my own. Never knowing that they were being lovingly and faithfully watched the whole time.
Through all the bad decisions, God was there. Watching and waiting for me to turn back. And that is the thing about God. He never turns away. Like the prodigal son, He saw me coming from afar and prepared the party for me. My heart is so filled with gratitude and love for Him. I know I blow it, probably every day, but my desire to love Him and bring Him glory keep my eyes on the prize. And that prize is knowing that some day I will hear Him call me a faithful servant. That prize is laying my head on my pillow each night and thanking Him for helping me to become more like Him every day. To become that Christ follower who lavishes His love on others. Who extravagantly bestows grace and mercy at every step. Who exuberantly (ok, that's a stretch for me, but I'm working on it) lives the life He gave me to the fullest.
My point is that we are never too far from Him. We are never out of reach of His mercy. The arm of His grace is not too short. I remember the relief I felt when I returned to Him. And not because I had a safety net, which I certainly did. But because I had the arms of my Father around me again. I could relax into His embrace and feel His heartbeat again. I could breathe in His fragrance...the stench of sin and death can't hold a candle to the aroma of restoration of being a child of God. I had left that old wasteland of a place that would only remain as a former address and stepped back into an estate that was given to me as a birthright, with passage provided by my great High Priest, Jesus. I had returned to Brooklyn.
Photo attribution: By Sledgeh101 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons