Friday, July 08, 2016

Come Back to Me

By Colleen O'Sullivan

I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.  I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots.  His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.  (Hosea 14:5-7)

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
(Psalm 51:14 and 17)

What a frenetic, crazy culture we live in!  Busy, busy, busy.  Gotta keep up with all those emails, texts, and tweets.  And don’t forget Instagram and Facebook.  Thanks to our smart phones, now our workplaces can keep in touch 24/7.  But even the most ardent advocates and users of social media among us find ourselves stopping once in a while to take stock of how our lives are going.

So, you do an excellent job in your career.  You got a great review, even a big bonus.  But sometimes you have to wonder if all the time you put into your work is worth the collateral damage.  You’d like to shut out the memory of your son’s face when you announced you would have to miss yet another ball game because you were “stuck” at work.  You can’t remember the last time you hired a babysitter, went out with your spouse and talked about something other than the family’s schedule or your job?  You’re becoming like a stranger to your family, you realize.

You start to ponder all your accomplishments.  Perhaps you come to the realization that they don’t give you the satisfaction they used to.  They seem kind of empty.  Is this all there is to life? you wonder.

You realize other things in your life have gotten off-kilter, too.  You used to say blessings at meals and pray before you went to sleep at night.  Somehow that’s all gone by the wayside.  Your family hardly ever all sits down to meals together anymore.  Sunday mornings used to be time for the family to go to church together, but that’s your only time all week to sleep in.  Now that you’re pondering all this, when was the last time you ever had a deep conversation with God, anyway?

What has happened?  How did I get to be this exhausted, dried-up shell of a human being? you ask yourself.  How did I get so off track?

At the very moment, you have this thought, God calls to you.  Come back to me.  I will restore true joy to your life.   Don’t worship the works of your hands as though they are the gods in your life.  Even if you had never done a thing of note, I would still be here saying this to you.  I love you.  Let me take care of you.

The people Hosea preached to were, in general, prosperous.  They, too, idolized their own works.  They were faithless.  Some of them were bedazzled by the Assyrians and even went so far as to offer sacrifices to Assyrian gods.  Still, God sang love songs to them, wooing them back, inviting them to put aside these idols and return to the Lord.

No matter that we may have turned our backs on the God who breathed life into us and put us on this earth, our sins are never the last word.  God promises healing and forgiveness.  God is merciful.  God doesn’t want us to feel used up and worn out from our frenetic attempts to be our own gods.  God promises to refresh us like dew.  God wants us to bloom.  He wants us to have roots like Lebanon cedars, roots that are centered in the Lord.

No matter what we have done or failed to do, God is always running after us, inviting us to come home, to be his children, to feel his arms around us.

Spend some time contemplating our God, the God who never stops loving us, the One who pursues us with mercy and forgiveness when our every inclination is to hide in shame. 

“Behold God beholding you…and smiling.” (Anthony de Mello, S.J., Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits, p.8)

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