“Adam hid in the Garden of Eden. Moses tried to substitute his brother. Jonah jumped a boat and was swallowed by a whale.
Man likes to run from God. It’s a tradition. So perhaps I was only following tradition when as soon as I could walk, I started running…
…by the time I graduated (from college) and went out into the world, I was as well versed in my religion as any secular man I knew.
And then I pretty much walked away from it.
It wasn’t revolt. It wasn’t some tragic loss of faith. It was, if I’m being honest, apathy… I attended no service. Who had time? I was fine. I was healthy. I was making money. I was climbing the ladder. I didn’t need to ask God for much, and I figure, as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone, God wasn’t asking much of me either. We had forged a sort of you go your way, I’ll go mine arrangement. At least in my mind.”
Author and columnist Mitch Albom is nothing if not honest in his religious self-assessment. Jewish by birth, Albom was too afraid in his childhood, and too busy as a young adult, to open his heart to God. Like so many others, he turned his back on formal religion, but found that he was unable, and eventually uninterested in outrunning the God who dwells within.
The instinct to follow the “tradition” is powerful; one who knew this to be true, and who gave poetic voice to it, was Francis Thompson who in his work “The Hound of Heaven” wrote: “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.” The instinct to run notwithstanding, Albom, and Thompson before him, found that the spiritual connection to the divine within is a different animal than obedience to the God of institutional religious beliefs and practices. It is the bond with the divine within that matters most, and that is ultimately impossible to outrun.
We live in an era that is increasingly a-religious, but we also exist at a time characterized by an intense spiritual hunger. Although we often experience this hunger as a desire for material and relational fulfillment, it is really the “hound of heaven” nipping at our heals, inviting us not to run, but to rest in Her/Him.