God Loves Us In Our Rebellion

My voice had turned from anger to desperation. “Katelyn, honey, please come out if you’re hiding. Mommy and Daddy are really scared. Katelyyynnnn!” Twenty-five minutes into a family hike, Katelyn had decided she was tired and wanted to go back. I asked her to rest on a rock with her dad while her brother and I walked a bit further up the trail. The selfish tone of her response made my blood boil… “No! I want to go back NOW!” With the stubborn rebellion of an 8-year-old, she turned on her heel and huffed down the trail – the wrong way at the nearby fork. “Katelyn, the car is the other way,” her dad corrected with a hint of humor in his voice. She promptly changed course, rolled her eyes, and shot back at him, “Fine! See you at the car!”  Frustrated, her brother and I forged ahead, while Katelyn’s dad remained in place but briefly turned his attention away from her (she had finally sat down for a moment). And that’s all it took….

When Sean turned back, Katelyn was gone. We yelled for her, angered more than fearful at first. Thinking she was just hiding to scare us, we wasted precious time looking behind rocks and trees in the area, but she was nowhere to be found. Finally accepting that she had indeed taken off,  Sean and I were horrified as we remembered how many times the trail had split and re-split along our twenty-five minute hike. It could take us hours trying to guess which path she had taken at each fork in the road – and daylight was fading quickly. Sean and I and Michael began running, hearts pounding. At the first fork, we split up – with me taking the path that seemed most logical but was actually the wrong way to the car.  Sean and Michael retraced our original path. In those moments alone on that trail, my fears consumed me.  Just months earlier, I had joined hundreds of others walking through fields and thick woods looking for a missing young boy from our community – and those parents never got to hold their little boy alive again. I imagined Katelyn in the woods, alone and scared. I imagined her stumbling upon a bear, as many in this area had experienced. At each fork I came to, I prayed, “God, please, show me which way to choose.”  When I reached a parking lot hidden by woods, but close to a road, my heart caught in my throat. My God, what if someone had found her and grabbed her?! They would be long gone by now and no one would ever know what happened. “Oh God,” I cried out, “Please show me where my baby is!”

As I hurried back the way I’d come, randomly trying a new path at each fork, I called Sean frantically several times: “Are you at the car yet? Is she there?!” How the hell could it take him that long to run back down the path we had originally come?!

Fifteen terrifying minutes later, I finally got the call that Katelyn was safe at the car. I was overcome with emotion. When I finally reunited with her, all my anger was washed away in relief and joy at having my precious girl in my arms again.  Though the whole awful experience was the result of her selfish rebellion, the only thing on my mind was grace, love, and pure joy.

Never forget that it’s the same for your Heavenly Father. When you rebel and take off down the wrong path, the Bible says that He leaves the 99 to search for His one precious lost sheep. He never gives up. Ever. And when He finds you, anger at your misbehavior is the last thing on His mind. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn, but to save.” No matter what you’ve done, don’t let the enemy convince you to keep running to avoid God’s wrath. Stop running, and melt into His open arms of forgiveness. All God wants is His precious child back.

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