"How can I give you up? How can
I hand you over? How can I destroy you? My heart is changed within
Me; all My compassion is aroused."
It's finally time for me to talk about my
cats, Sneezy and Squawker. I mentioned them briefly in the last
article; but after five articles devoted solely to "the girls" (Kasey
and Annie), it's time they got the attention they deserved. I've
neglected them long enough.
Actually--unfortunately--neglect has been,
in some ways, part-and-parcel of their lives. I adopted Sneezy and
Squawker when I lived in Montana. In Montana, I pastored two churches
simultaneously--I led Sunday morning worship in Conrad, and Wednesday
evening worship in Great Falls, which was 60 miles away. For 2 years,
I was gone half the week of every week--and my cats grew accustomed
to it. Not only that, but when vacation, out-of-town meetings, or
mission trips came up, I was often gone for more than a week at a
time. Fortunately, cats are more independent than dogs; furthermore,
Sneezy and Squawker had each other.
I moved to Longview, Washington, things changed. Not only was I now
focused on just one church, but I actually moved in next door
to the church building. For the first time in my cats' lives, I was
home every night. I didn't think about the effect this would
have on them, until I took a 2 week vacation. For months, they had
grown accustomed to me being home every night--and then I suddenly
disappeared for 2 weeks. The best word to describe them, upon
my return, was needy. At every turn--every time I
walked by or sat down--they wanted my attention. They wanted to be
held, to be loved, and to snuggle.
In many ways, we are like those cats. When
we stretch our relationship with God to go beyond a mere "Sunday
morning friendship"--when we genuinely seek a deeper
relationship with God, and daily draw closer to
Him--we actually get used to it. In fact, we like it! And it's
great! It's great to be that close to God! And in times when that
relationship begins to feel distant, we miss it. We miss
having a close relationship with God. Unlike my analogy, though, God
is not the one who leaves for weeks at a time--we are. We are the
ones who, for various reasons, begin to slip away.
Perhaps you've seen the affect that neglect
has on animals. Neglected animals eventually become cold and distant.
The love has seeped out of them. Likewise, when we stay away from God
for too long, we become cold and distant; the spiritual joy that was
so prevalent--which, indeed, depends on a close
relationship with God--fades into memory.
And what about God in all of this? Because
God, also, is the one neglected--neglected by the children He loves.
We see it all too many times in Scripture. God laments in Isaiah 1:2
- 3--"I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled
against Me. The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger,
but Israel does not know, My people do not understand."
Are we doomed when our relationship with God
suffers neglect? Fortunately, no. Hosea, one of my favorite writings
in the Old Testament, says it best in chapter 11 (my favorite
chapter). Hosea 11:1 - 9 (paraphrased):
When they were
a child, I loved them, and called to them. But the more I
called, the further they went from me. They turned to other
gods. It was I who taught them to walk, taking them by the
arms; but they didn't realize it was I who healed them. I led
them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted
their burden from them and bent down to feed them. Will they
not return to slavery and oppression because they refuse to
repent? They will fight and be destroyed. My people are
determined to turn from me. Even if they call to Me, I will not
listen. Yet, how can I give you up? How can I hand you over?
How can I destroy you? My heart is changed within Me; all My
compassion is aroused. I will not carry out My fierce anger,
nor will I turn and devastate you. For I am God, and not
man--the Holy One among you. I will not come in
It's a heavy passage, filled with deep
emotion. It begins with words of hurt, as God tells us
how much He's been hurt by those who neglect Him. He loved them as a
parent loves their child. His words of hurt then turn to words of
anger, as He essentially says, "You are determined to
turn away from Me--fine!" You can almost see Him turn away in fierce
then stop, as His shoulders sag
and He speaks
words of incredible compassion: "How can I neglect you?
My heart is changed within Me; all My compassion is aroused." That's
a special kind of love right there.
Jesus paints a similar picture in the
Parable of the Prodigal Son--a son who leaves his family and home to
set out upon his own ambitions. In time, though, he wants to return
but how will his father, whom he neglected, feel? Luke
15:20--"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and
was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son,
threw his arms around him and kissed him."
At times, we neglect God. And it hurts--both
us, and God. The Good News, though, is this: God's compassion
overcomes any anger, any hurt, any neglect. The love is still there;
the joy can be rekindled
and God waits with open
Good News indeed.
If you have anything of interest to add to
or you have general comments, questions, or ideas,
we welcome your response.
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