Growing up, my best friend was Scott Thompson. I’m not sure how or when we met, but I do remember he lived around the block from our house in Irving, Texas. For at least three years, Scott and I were best buddies. We were together most days after school. During the summer, I spent many afternoons swimming at Scott’s and most weekend nights we slept over at one or the other’s house. As an adult, I have often wondered what our friendship would be like today if my family had not returned to Connecticut when I was in fifth grade. A part of me often wonders if Scott and I would have reconnected as adults had he not been killed at sixteen in a car accident. I have to admit, I am a bit jealous of those who have sustained life-long friendships. There is something different about those relationships formed before or during early adulthood that time and distance cannot destroy and are hard to create later in life. I became more aware of this four years ago when Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew became the rector at Christ Church, Manlius. She, her husband David and I attended Yale Divinity School together in the late eighties. As we started new jobs and families soon after graduation, we lost touch with each other, only to be reunited four years ago when Dena and David moved to Syracuse. Our reunion was as if no time had ever passed as our friendship has moved on from there. The same was true when (as I like to call him) my pseudo-nephew Sam began his doctoral studies at Syracuse. Again, despite several years of being out of touch with Sam’s family, Sam’s arrival re-kindled the Swan/Leitermann connection, as if, without missing a beat.
I think because of my relationships with Dena, David and Sam, God’s declaration that he has known Jeremiah since before God formed him in the womb deeply resonated with me this week. As I pondered the fact that God has known me since before I was formed in the womb, it struck me how God knows me better and even more intimately than my parents. It’s no surprise then, when Jesus taught the disciples to pray he encouraged them to address God as Abba, in English as papa or daddy.
You know. . .God doesn’t just know us, God deeply cares for us, even if we choose to hide from God. In Psalm 139, the Psalmist writes,
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
As I read Psalm 139, I am reminded of the book by Margaret Wise Brown, The Runaway Bunny. Maureen and I read this as a bedtime story to Chelsea and Kayleigh when they were small. It is the story of a precocious little bunny who tells his mother one night of his plans to run away. The mother’s response begins what is perhaps the most famous mother/child dialogue among preschooler;
“If you run away’ said the mother bunny “I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.” “If you run after me,” said the little bunny, “I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.” “If you become a fish in a trout stream,” said his mother, “I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.” “If you become a fisherman,” said the little bunny, “I will become a rock on the mountain, high above you.” “If you become a rock on the mountain high above me,” said his mother, “I will become a mountain climber, and I will climb to where you are.” “If you become a mountain climber,” said the little bunny, “I will be a crocus in a hidden garden.” “If you become a crocus in a hidden garden,” said his mother, “I will be a gardener. And I will find you.” “If you are a gardener and find me,” said the little bunny, “I will be a bird and fly away from you.” P “If you become a bird and fly away from me,” said his mother, “I will be a tree that you come home to.” “If you become a tree,” said the little bunny, “I will become a little sailboat, and I will sail away from you.” “If you become a sailboat and sail away from me,” said his mother, “I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.” “If you become the wind and blow me,” said the little bunny, “I will join a circus and fly away on a flying trapeze.” “If you go flying on a flying trapeze,” said his mother, “I will be a tightrope walker, and I will walk across the air to you.” “If you become a tightrope walker and walk across the air,” said the bunny, “I will become a little boy and run into a house.” “If you become a little boy and run into a house,” said the mother bunny, “I will become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.”
In so many ways each of us is like the Little Bunny or the Psalmist, always seeking ways to hide from God, hoping and perhaps even praying that God will give up looking for us. Why we do this, I don’t know. . because what we surrender is the one relationship that can sustain us throughout time and distance. What we surrender is the one relationship that will love us unconditionally and keep us throughout life. What we surrender is the one relationship in life that will always seek us out no matter where we choose to hide.
That of course is the good news, God will always look for ways to find us, to seek us out and to invite us into relationship. Why, because as God told Jeremiah this morning, God has known us since before God formed us in our mother’s womb. And as Jeremiah also learned. God has a dream for us. A dream God will guide us towards, and give us what we need to fulfill it.
And so, why don’t we do like the Little Bunny does at the end of the story and stay. . right where we need to be, with God. Amen