Our faith life is a lot like a game of tag. Sometimes we hear something coming up behind us, and just as the words “I finally got you” are uttered from God’s lips, we yell “oh no you don’t” and we dodge God’s touch and get away. Because we are not simply not ready for the chase to be over. So, we wildly run in the other direction, or we quietly turn the corner, or we slip into the shadows, hoping that at least for a moment, we can stay free; at least for a moment we can pretend that God will never find us and our lives will never have to change.
Other times you’ll run and run and finally you simply give in, and let yourself be tagged. Writer Anne Lamott says Jesus is a lot like a stray cat. He just keeps following you around, nipping at your heels, looking longingly at you through your windows, trying desperately to come into your home; and finally, after shooing him away, and trying to pawn him off on friends, in utter frustration you fling open the door—“fine, you’ve got me. Come on in.” And the cat Jesus settles himself on your lap and the game is over.
And then, there are those times when you feel like you’re the only one playing. When you find yourself in this huge field of shrubs and thorns and really tall grass, and you look around, and you wonder—am I still in the game? Has everyone gone home and forgotten to tell me? Is God still ‘it?’ And you even start to shout out loud—“hey, come and find me…where’d you go. I’m right here.”
I have to be honest with you…I spend a lot of time in that field, surrounded by prickly grass, wondering if the game has ended without me. One of the great things about being a pastor is I get to talk a lot about God; one of the bad things about being a pastor is I have to think a lot about God. And the more I think, the more I struggle, and I turn God into this really knowable reality. I may preach about God being present and active and about how God works in the world. But, when I think about when was the last time God tagged me—it feels like I’m playing hide-n-seek, and God’s forgotten that I’m still hiding.
Until last week—last week some of you came to listen to Joe Kissick, the author of the Fourth Fisherman—and although he said a lot of wonderful things, what stood out to me, was in this crazy journey of searching for three Mexican fisherman, he started to doubt if he was doing the right thing, and he longed for God to send him a sign, to tell him if he was going the right way. Along the way, a plane ticket came open on a previously booked flight he really needed to be on; along the way, he was driving through the jungle and suddenly his little car was completely surrounded by hundreds of butterflies, beckoning him to move forward. Along the way he was tagged by God; God found him time and time again and ushered him into what turned into a vital new ministry. I left that evening longing for God to tag me; longing to feel something…anything…for God to find me, tag me, and curl contentedly up in my lap.
This story is long…but the next week, I suppose this last week has been kind of difficult—I won’t go into details (imagine that), but again I found myself doubting my call, questioning my worth, wondering if indeed the game was over or changed on me midstream. And the following happen, I kid you not; I was walking down my drive way, looking down at the ground, ready to cry, and I see the shadows of three butterflies—seriously, three butterflies—and I look up and they are circling around my head. And in that instant I was tagged. In that instant God found me; and I was no longer wandering and waist deep in that awful grass, wondering where God had gone, but in that instant I knew Jesus had indeed been following me around like a stray kitten longing to be welcomed, I simply had my curtains drawn, my head under the pillow and had been closing my eyes to the butterflies that surrounded me.
And you know what I had to do to get to see those butterflies. Absolutely nothing. There was nothing that I did. There was no confessing my sins; there was no huge prayer that I prayed; there was no major bible study I went to, or book that I read. There was simply me…walking in a field run-over with scratchy grass and when I looked up I was tagged. I was lost and Jesus found me.
Just like that sheep that was found wandering in the field; he didn’t do anything but get lost. That coin missing under the sofa—yep…didn’t do anything but jump out of the woman’s purse. It was the compassionate shepherd…the faithful woman that did the searching; it was the seekers—the “it-ones” who stopped everything they were doing, to play the most elaborate game of tag and who wouldn’t stop until every last one had been tapped on the shoulder. And then what happened? They all rejoiced—not just a “goodness gracious, I finally found what I was looking for” but an all-out, throw-down party, where there is dancing and singing and laughing and stories and joy—pure unadulterated joy. Because when you’ve spent so much time wandering around in an empty field…when you’ve been laying for days with the dust bunnies under the sofa…when you’ve been wondering if everyone has gone home…once you see those butterflies, once Jesus taps you on the shoulder, there is nothing you would rather do than jump into God’s arms and join the party.
So, what do you have to do this week? Absolutely nothing. Be lost…wander in the field, look down at the ground, lie under the sofa; because Jesus is “it” and there is nothing Jesus likes better than a good game of tag—and the next best thing? To throw one heck of a party.