(Francis Thompson, 1859-1907)
News so Good it’s Just Gotta’ be told
Can Steve Come Out and Play?
An old friend passes through town. Although you haven’t thought about him in awhile, a text beeps your phone to life; “Hey, I’m in town on business for a couple of days. Wanna’ meet for coffee and catch up on life?”
Love is communicated clearly when someone initiates time together. Their initiative seems to add value to our lives – we are not forgotten after all. What great joy! I’m not too old to get excited when I hear, as I did in childhood, a friend at the door asking, “Can Steve come out and play?”
In his poem published in 1893, “The Hound of Heaven,” Englishman Francis Thompson tells the story of a man fleeing from God while drowning in worldly indulgences. God is seen as initiating a love relationship with him, empowered by Divine love. He is the “Hound of Heaven” who relentlessly pursues the hearts of wandering men and women. The author honestly confesses,
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; and in the mist of tears
God then goes on to explain that the worldly pleasures removed from him were for his benefit that he might find the right path – the path to God. The happiness the poet longed for was not to be found in worldly pleasures, but were “stored for thee at home.”* The Hound of Heaven tenderly says ““Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”*
Rather than leaving us to work our way to Him, God initiates a love relationship with us. He pursues us and woos us. Jesus came to earth while we were “utterly helpless.”* Without spiritual resources of our own, we were lost and hell-bent on self destruction.
Now, because of His initiating love, “we know how dearly God loves us.” And when we turn from worldly affections and accept His grace-gift, He increases His initiative by giving “us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”*
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, initiative is defined as “the power or opportunity to do something before others do.” Or, when others can’t do anything for themselves. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. And all we have to do is clasp His hand and come.
Always saying “yes” to His love,
Poem published in 1893, “The Hound of Heaven,” by Francis Thompson
Excerpted from Romans 5:3-5, N.L.T.