You Can Run But You Can't Hide
I had been out of prison for a little over three years, and life was looking up. I had finished my requirements for parole, my income had just about tripled, Susie and I were paying our bills on time, and we had just moved into a nice rental property in a good community.
At the time, I remember thinking to myself:
You’re doing all right, Gary. It wasn’t too long ago that you thought you might not ever feel hope again. Now look at you. You’ve got a nice house to live in, a decent-paying job, and food on the table. You’ve got some good friends, Todd is going off to college next year, and you and Susie will be empty nesters. Who knows? Maybe soon you’ll be able to take some vacations, have some barbecues in the backyard, enjoy some evenings on the porch, and just have a nice little life. Compared to where you were, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
The next day, as I was driving to Denver for a window-cleaning job. I was listening to a taped sermon my wife had given to me. I don’t remember who the preacher was, and to be honest, I wasn’t really listening to what he was saying either, until about halfway through, when he said this:
“So, you think you’ve got life figured out, don’t you? Everything is going pretty well. The kids will be off to college soon, and it’s just going to be you and your wife. Sure, you’ll have your nice little house with your nice little yard. You’ll have some barbecues, and take a vacation every now and then. It’s turned out all right, hasn’t it? Well, I’m here to tell you that God has a lot more in mind for you than a nice little life. He has a plan for you, and He’s waiting for you to step up to the plate and get busy about it.”
I pulled over to the side of the road. Tears were streaming down my face. My mind was racing, and I couldn’t keep up. My first thought was when I was ten years old and first heard the Lord call me to ministry. My next thought was how I had more or less ran from that call for the better part of thirty years, ran to the point where I had ruined my life.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel so great about all the progress I’d made. In reality, I had failed God over and over again, and now I didn’t see how I could be of any use. I was overwhelmed with shame, regret, and anger over all the stupid things I’d done. But in the midst of all those terrible feelings, there was something else also, something that didn’t fit: hope. Was it possible God still might have a little something for me to do?
I wiped the tears from my eyes and decided I didn’t have anything to lose by asking Him. So I did.
“Lord, I don’t know what to say. You know I’m sorry for how I’ve lived my life. What do You want me to do? What can I do? I feel so foolish. Can You use me? All I have to offer is this wasted life. I’ve been divorced, I’ve been in prison, I’m over a half-million dollars in debt, and I have nothing to give You. I’m embarrassed that I’m coming to You with nothing, but if You can still use me, I’m Yours.”
That was a defining moment in my life. In a van on the side of the highway, finally deciding I was done trying to run and hide from God. I’ve had a few of these kinds of moments over the years, and it almost always has something to do with me surrendering to God. I have come to believe that one of the safest places to be is in an attitude of
surrender to the Lord. When I am surrendered, I don’t lose sleep over disappointments. When I am surrendered, all plans are held lightly. When I am surrendered, it is easier for me to discern what God would have me do in a particular situation because my trust is in Him and not in myself.
At first glance, this might sound weak, or complacent, or indifferent. But when we are fully surrendered and fully put our trust in God, that is when we become strong; that is when we truly become useful to the Lord.
The bad news is that surrender is a decision of the will—and God won’t make us do it. We have to decide to surrender every day, and it isn’t easy at first. Temptation to take back the surrender and go our own way will pop up constantly. The good news is that the more you surrender, the easier it gets. The even better news is that the Lord is patient. He understands how difficult it can be to surrender, and He will teach us how to do it if we will let Him. We may have to face consequences as a result of our rebellion against Him, but if we will return to Him and repent, He is right there, eager to help us pick up the pieces and move forward. He doesn’t leave us to face anything alone. He walks with us and stays by our side and give us the strength we need to get through.
So, if God has put something on your heart to do, even if you have tried to run and hide from Him or that assignment for years, He is still there. He doesn’t care how many mistakes you’ve made or how you think you’ve ruined your life. He still has something for you to do. It may be something different than what He had for you before, but it still has value and purpose—because everything He is involved in has value and purpose. All He is waiting for is for you to return to Him and surrender.
Psalm 139:1-10 (NLT)
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. 4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. 5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! 7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. 9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
If we are living in rebellion, if we are trying to run and hide, this section of Scripture can be very disheartening. We would prefer the Lord not know everything because our focus is on the ugly of what we think and do. However, if we will learn to surrender to God’s will, these verses will bring comfort and joy.
And as we keep surrendering, we will find our hearts and minds will become so in tune with wanting what God wants that after a while there isn’t anything to surrender anymore. We will no longer be at war within. We will no longer be bound by fear. Our faith will grow. We will see things more clearly. We will have purpose. We will be at peace.
On Saturday September 28th we will be holding a Life Coach Training Seminar in Montrose, Colorado. If you are interested, please register online at prisontalk.org There is no charge for this event.
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It helps a lot!