“I’m moving to California if you won’t play with me!” When Peyton was 7 years old, she decided that she was no longer going to live in Wyoming with me because McKenna, her sister, wouldn’t play with her. I tried to explain to her to no avail that sometimes big sisters who are 6 years older don’t always like to play the same things that little sisters like to play. That went over like a lead balloon. Peyton was determined to pack her belongings and move to California to live with her dad. After trying to reason with her, she asked me to leave her room so that she could pack. In response, I did what any loving mother would do…I asked her if she could at least pick up her room before she left so that I didn’t have to do it, and then I shut the door behind me.
Fifteen minutes later, she emerged from her room rolling a suitcase behind her. I asked her if she wanted me to take it downstairs for her. Of course, my independent girl said no. After lugging that thing down 14 steps, she turned around to McKenna and said, “If you want to say goodbye to me, here’s your chance. I won’t be coming back for a while. And you’ll wish you’d played with me, McKenna.” She offered me a hug and an ‘I love you’ and walked out the front door.
Now, I’m not the kind of mother that panics. I never have been. When she walked out the door, instead of running after her, I just told her it was a long walk to California. And then I raced up the stairs to watch her from my bedroom window. She walked about 15 feet, stopped, and looked back towards the house, searching for signs of someone running out of the door, asking her to come back. She then went forward another 30 feet or so and turned around again. This went on for a few minutes before she finally turned back towards home and walked back in the door. “I’ve decided I will give this family one more chance. I’m staying.” I smiled at her, gave her a big hug and told her I was happy to hear it. Then, I unzipped the suitcase to see what she’d actually packed. I had to laugh—books, stuffed animals, some clothing, and her ‘Say Your Prayers’ sign that was hanging on the wall. Not bad for a little girl!
What hits my heart today, years later, is that I’m just like that little girl who walks out of the house and keeps turning around to see if anyone is watching. I do it to Jesus all the time. I’ve made a lot of impulsive and rash decisions in my life that caused hasty reactions that almost never included Jesus in the mix. Every time I made one of those decisions that ultimately ended in mistake and heartache, I would get angry and say “That’s it, God!” and turn my back on Him to run away. I thought by running away I could fix myself and make it better. I thought that no one could help me get through my tough times better than me. Why would God want me sticking around anyway when I just made a fool of myself, yet again? When I ran, however, I would always look back over my shoulder, checking to see if God still cared. Was He still listening to me? Did He still love me? And each time, He wasn’t hiding at the window, watching to see if I’d turn around. He was standing at the door, watching me walk away but holding His outstretched arms towards me. He was always waiting for me to turn back to Him to seek repentance and refuge.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4 (NIV).
I’ve made a commitment to never run away from Him again. I don’t need to look back and try to catch His eye to see if He’s still there for me. He says He’ll never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). He’ll be that refuge that I desperately need daily. It’s a beautiful promise He’s given to believers, and it’s something I never want to forget.