I have a confession. I have never read or seen The Hunger Games. Hopefully that statement is not so polarizing that it prevents you from still being my friend, either Internet or flesh (if that doesn't sound too awkward). I don't know a ton about it either, but I know enough to feel kinda sorta like there is a real life game going on in my own home. I not-so-affectionately refer to it as "The Chase". (Apparently we have upped our intensity since I wrote about our game of Hide and Seek.)
The basic premise of "The Chase" is for the children in our home to relentlessly pursue the mother in our home, to corner her, badger her, and surround her on all sides with requests for snacks, TV shows to be played off the DVR and craft scissors from the top shelf. The mother has no safe zone, not even the toilet or shower is considered safe. She does, however, get bonus points if she can eat a peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar without anyone finding her out and pouncing. Sometimes though, even after the fact, a stray wrapper or crumb may do her in. The mother must be crafty, and not just in the pinterest-y way. Meanwhile, from their strategy it appear that this is the breakdown of how the children in our home earn points:
Back to back (okay...lets be real...to back) Disney Junior shows: 50 million 200 points
Going outside in less than seasonally appropriate clothing: 42 points
Eating a snack in the car : eight, just eight. Dats all. (If said snack is processed and packaged add infinity-one-hundred points)
Play with playdough: wait, where is our playdough? Did it get lost when we moved, just like all the batteries for our toys?
Win the WWF smack down for who gets the coveted purple princess lunch plate: eleventy nine points and whiny neena-neena-boo-boo bragging rights
Make the mother in our house silent yell while on the phone: the laughing in the corner equivalent of a Scrabble double word score
Be the child who can open the bathroom door the highest number of times while the mother is inside before she yells the buggy-eyed vein in her neck way (this one takes a sort of sly, careful, boldness): Jenga
More Disney Junior when you are already supposed to be in bed: Yahtzee ( if this takes place while the mother in the house cleans up 80 hundred legos off the playroom floor : infinity Yahtzee)
Maybe you play your own version of The Chase at your house. If not maybe you can just nod along with me here. It will make me feel better.
I was telling a couple of friends lately about this game we "play", how most days it feels like we are on opposite teams, like my kids are actually chasing me. I even went so far as to tell a friend or two that I don't like being around my kids these days. Maybe that is too harshly honest to share here. But then again if you have been around here long you are probably accustomed to the over-sharing.
I joke, but the game isn't fun. Really neither "side" seems to be doing much winning in our home lately. As amazing as a score like "50 million 200, eleventy-9, infinity Yahtzee" looks on paper, my kids are after more than impressive high scores. And I know it. They are after me. Why are they chasing me? Maybe because I am running. It is not that I don't love my kids. But lately my behavior would indicate that I love myself more. Eww. That is more disgusting that the dust-bunny-covered- raisins I found stashed under the bookshelf the other day. Maybe if I stopped playing the role of "Hard to get Mom" they would stop playing the role of "Savage Band of Needy Pursuers". If I don't want to be chased I should just stop running away. Just stop running away. Yet it isn't that easy. Sin and motherhood and life never is.
All this running and chasing has got me thinking. It has got me thinking about a lot of things, some of them I am still working out in my head, but a couple things I know for certain. My kids need me. And they want me. And I am needy too. Sometimes I am running in all the wrong directions to have my needs met. I am weary from the chase, and I am not just talking about the game. I have been a pretty awful mother lately. All this weariness and guilt has got me wanting my Heavenly Father. But if I am being honest, I have very little of any kind of energy left to run anywhere or chase anyone right now.
But isn't God so amazing, such a good, good Father? He doesn't make me chase Him. He doesn't bristle irritable at the interruption. He doesn't hide and sneak Kind bars behind closed doors. He actually does the opposite. He chases me.
The God of the whole wide universe chases me.
"But God shows His love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
"So He told them this parable. 'What man of you, having one hundred sheep, if he lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine and go after the one that is lost until He finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing." Luke 15: 3-5
"You hem me in behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it? Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?" Psalm 139:5-7
"Surely your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23:6
A note about Psalm 23:6- David was familiar with being chased. In a jealous rage (that didn't fizzle out quickly) King Saul was hunting David to try to kill him. David writes that he is "walk (ing) through the valley of the shadow of death". Now, my kids might be trying at times, and I am one with a flair for the dramatic exaggeration (ahem Hunger Games), but even I wouldn't call our little game the "Valley of the Shadow of Death". David knew what it was like to be chased. That is what makes this next part so lovely to me. I love congruence. We translate the Hebrew as "follow" here but in other places in scripture the root word is translated with the connotation of hunting, pursuing and chasing. The New Living Translation uses the word "pursue" and The Message says "chase".
Surely your goodness and mercy will pursue or chase me all the days of my life...
That is good news. It was good news for David and it is good new for me, the woman weary of the chase. When I am too weary or too sinful to chase God I know He chases me. I am in good company. All throughout scripture we see the over-arching story of God pursuing, chasing after His people. He is chasing after me because He loves me, because He chose me and because he wants to keep on working on my heart. More on that in Part 2. But for now, a prayer for those of us who are familiar with running, hiding and the game I call The Chase.
We are so weary from the chase- from being chased and from chasing after things that do not satisfy or replenish us. Sometimes we feel helpless to help ourselves, much less those who are dependent on us. So we run away. We hide. In our selfishness and fear we begin to resent those little people who chase us, Lord. It is so ugly and so painful, but it is so real. God, I pray that you would speak love over us. Allow your words-full of grace and truth- to cleanse our hearts. We don't have to be stuck in this game. Thank you that you are not the Father that runs and hides. Thank you that you do not hoard good things, but give them to us freely. Thank you for chasing after us, even when we were and are running hard in the opposite direction. Thank you for finding us when we are pretending we do not want to be found. We DO long to be found and known and loved in spite of ourselves. Thank you for being the good, good Father that satisfies all of these longings within us. We are so grateful that you love us even though you know we will never stop needing to be chased, and that you will be relentless in your pursuit of our hearts. We love you, feebly but deeply God, because you first loved us.