Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
from the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
I love stories. I love telling them, I love hearing them, I love reading them, I love writing them.
Truth is revealed in stories. Capital "T" truth certainly, about things like God and justice, but also smaller truths about who we are, where we come from, what matters to us.
In the Bible, the Old Testament mostly reads like one story, replayed over and over again in different settings. That story has three main parts:
- The Israelites are lost/enslaved/pathetic/hopeless/wandering.
- God compassionately rescues them and commits His love and care to them.
- The Israelites are thankful for a time and then walk away from their covenant with God.
In God's great love, He sends prophets to warn the people not to wander, to beg them to return to His safety, His good plan, His peace. Those prophets often used stories - metaphors and parables - to communicate the hard but necessary truth.
Ezekiel was a prophet like this. In chapter 16, he confronts the people of Jerusalem about their wandering hearts by telling a story. It begins:
4 On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. 5 No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.
Here we are at step 1, lost & pathetic.
Ezekiel goes on to tell the story of a girl abandoned in a field who is found by a king. The king lavishes his love and his wealth on her and she grows up beautifully. They're then married (not as weird as it sounds to us in our cultural moment) but happily ever after goes south when she is unfaithful to Him.
Step 1. Step 2. Step 3. The same story told anew.
It's the story of God and Israelites.
It's the story of God and me.
Rescued, loved and then - wandering. Wandering in self-obsession, wandering in busy-ness, wandering in doubt.
I don't like finding myself in this story. Yet it's a powerful reminder that even when I am unfaithful, He calls me back to His gracious embrace.
I wrote the following song as a meditation on Ezekiel's story. There's an ache to the third verse that sticks in my throat. As I sing it, I remain thankful for a God who welcomes me in His love even as I'm prone to wander again and again.
There’s little girl lost and abandoned
Naked & lying alone
Dirty neglected unwanted by all
The old field now her only home
Walking along on the highway
He sees her so tiny and cold
He speaks her “Life!”
And holds to his heart
The little girl now his own
Little girl do you know who you are?
Do you know the sad place where you come from?
But the wonderful king has taken you in
Now instead of rejection, a welcome
Little girl lost, welcome home
Growing into something lovely
She promises love to the one
Who has made her his own
And given a home
To the girl, now a woman become
Such beauty is too much to fathom
How the king loves to behold the sight
As she sings unaware
That he watches her there
She shines like a star in the night
Little girl do you see who you are?
Are you dreaming of places you’ll go to?
With the wonderful king who’s looking with love
At the woman that you’ve grown into
Little girl lost, now home
But this woman, so royal and lovely
Has forgotten who made her that way
So she takes her king’s love
To the arms of someone
Who will use her and toss it away
As the king waits at home in their bedroom
He weeps for the heart of his bride
He knows that she’s gone
But remembers her song
And the promise he made to his wife
Does she remember the little girl lost?
Does she remember who paid the great cost?
As she walks away
As she turns her head
As she runs from his house
To another man’s bed
Only to become the little girl lost, again.
Have you experienced God's rescue? Where does your heart tend to wander? Praying that today you would find grace in the incredible truth of God's faithful love.