Monday, May 24, 2010

The Hound of Heaven

Recently lines from the Hound of Heaven have come to mind. I never intentionally memorized this famous poem by Francis Thompson. Nevertheless fragments of the opening words have been returning from memory unbidden.

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind.

For years I have seen myself as a servant of God - one who knows God and loves God. I have devoted my adult life to serving God. I became a pastor in order to know God more deeply. But the truth is I have been fleeing God.

I have been fleeing him under the guise of seeking him. I have been hiding from him under the pretence of finding him. Telling myself I loved God, I have done everything within my power to avoid God.

Whenever God rounded a corner, I ducked out of sight. Whenever God poked his head into my consciousness, I suppressed him. He sneaked around my defenses, meeting me in Nature and prayer. But I always succeeded in covering up any trace of him with ideas and doctrines that insured that I remained the "master of my fate" and the "captain of my soul," to quote another poet.

It has taken a lot of effort to ignore the God who is everywhere, but I have persevered. In fact the sole preoccupation of my life seems to have been to avoid God, suppress God, and ignore God at all costs. Because I have always known that if I let God be God, then I would die.

I do not mean that I would physically die. This body would remain intact for the time being. But the "I" that has been created to play the role of God in my life would cease to be. That felt like imminent death. So I ran.

I fled from him "down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind." In order to forget him, I replaced him with a nice safe churchly god. This terephim idol was a deity crafted by my own mind, a god safely locked in a book. It was a lifeless image guarded by pulpits, programs and proper prayers.

This god protected me from God. It was a god that "I" could have a personal relationship with - and thereby keep this "strange, piteous, futile thing" called "I" intact. It was an elaborate ruse to help me escape from the relentless pursuit of God.

But I am finished running. I am tired of the endless lie of my own existence. And I find there is nothing to fear. There is only the Hound of Heaven.
Art is Hound of Heaven by Jody Bare, lino-cut print on silk-paper.

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