Branches reach for you as you sprint through the woods. Heart pounding, feet throbbing, but you know you have to keep going. The stakes are too high to stop. It will catch up if you do. A beautiful fortress lingers in the distance where you know you'll find safety and shelter. The King has promised you a grand party upon your arrival for helping him. You're thoughts momentarily get caught up in the splendor of the party and the chance to finally meet the magnificent King you've heard so much about and have followed all of these years. But you won't meet him if you don't keep your pace; you just need to keep running.
"Hey!" You hear a voice call from behind. "Can we slow down for a bit?"
"No, we have to keep going."
"You know, it's not going to catch up to us. We can see the castle. I mean, it's like we're there already."
"It's much quicker than us."
"Yes, but it's not even close to us, we're in no danger," you feel an arm pull your hand from behind, trying to slow you down. "Just rest."
"How can you say that? It's going to find us and kill us!"
"Just believe me, we're fine. Just stop and sit for a while. Help me find something to eat." You friend turns the other direction where you came from on the path to search out something to eat.
You look at the castle and you look back at your friend, disappearing into the trees. The castle is so close, you can almost touch it. There will be an overwhelming amount of food at the party, so what's the point? As you begin to slow down, fatigue and hunger overwhelm you, and following your friend doesn't seem like such a bad idea. It will only be for a second, you convince yourself. Slowly you turn, calling their name, faintly hearing them calling you to follow them as you try to catch up.
Suddenly, you realize you can't see the castle anywhere as darkness engulfs you. You frantically call out for your friend, but it's no use because you can't see anything. You try to feel your way through the darkness, directionless and blind, but it's no use.
You hear footsteps and rustling in the trees around you. You stumble towards the sound, thinking it's your friend. The rustling comes to a halt. You try calling out in whispers, but they fade into the black abyss. Suddenly there is an eerie light. Nothing like the light of day, but a light that was almost darkness in nature.That's when you see it. Terror shakes you head to toe as you become face to face with what you've been running from all of this time.
It grabs a hold of you. Everything goes black.
You should never have turned back.
Pilgrims Progress, The Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and many other books tell the story of the journey of faith. It is a constant battle between good and evil, a fight to always keep your eyes ahead and to never turn back.
Do we realize how much we turn back?
We run in the opposite direction every day.
How much longer until we are consumed by darkness? It's not as if we're immune because we went to a church service or live a Christianized life full of Christian things and Christian people in a Christian bubble.
I'm preaching at me. I'm preaching at us. We're LOST.
We're running straight from the Father's arms into idolatry. All of us.
Maybe the "friend" in the story pulling you away from the path is a relationship. Your boyfriend or girlfriend is constantly telling you everything is fine, and making light of a dark, dark path in which they offer temporary satisfaction.
Maybe you're the one tired of being lonely all of the time and don't want to wait for the Father's will. You've turned back and follow the voice of someone who you've lowered all your standards for that you think will fill your needs.
Let me tell you, in this scenario, in any relationship that is God-centered and Kingdom chasing, a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22) would pick you up and carry you all the way to the "castle" straight into the arms of God. You would lean on one another, relying on each other's strengths and the strength of the Lord so there is no temptation to turn and wander into the darkness.
Maybe the "friend" is you. Your desires, your lust, your greed, your work, your achievements, your worry, your anxiety, your selfishness, your depression, your perfection.
You have that "friend"-idol in your life. You know what it is. Stop letting its voice consume you. It's not what our loving Father meant for us. He is unchanging, He is steady, He is safe, He is love, He satisfies, He is more than anything this world could possibly offer.
He is pursuing us when we walk back into darkness, but we block Him out and treat his sacrifice as though it was nothing.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. " - 1 Corinthians 10:13
He can lead us. He can take our wandering hearts and bind them back to him. We just need to fix our eyes back on him once more and chase him with everything in us. He is relentlessly chasing after us, calling us back to him.
Live chased. Live relentlessly. Don't turn back.