What To Do When You Are Far Away
I got lost in Prague this summer.
It definitely wasn't on purpose. I was not on a quest to "find myself" in Europe and somehow got "lost" in pursuit of higher understanding.
This was just your normal "I don't know where the heck I am" and "I don't speak the language," run of the mill lost.
My fellow travel buddies and I had just arrived in the city that day after being on an overnight train for what felt like a million hours. We ubered to our Airbnb (so hip, I know), freshened up a bit, grabbed a map, and then began walking towards what we thought was the old town city center.
I was leading, and honestly, I checked the map a copious amount of times and set out, confidently, leading everyone toward our goal. But after two hours of walking in the hot sun and hopping trams, I figured out we had been going the complete opposite direction the whole time.
It was an epic moment of defeat.
We were at the end of a tram line, on the outskirts of industrial Prague surrounded by factories and closed businesses. We were tired, cranky, and hot. We did not want to keep moving.
But what choice did we have?
In the moment of clarity, when it dawned on me that we were far far away from where we wanted to be, there really was only one choice.
We had to turn around and go back.
All too often, the same can be said about my spiritual life. I am confidently moving towards my own goals. I am moving at a steady pace, content to pursue what makes me happy, and I seem to be surrounded with many others just like me doing the same exact thing.
But at some point, I look up to realize that I am wayyyyyy off. That while I’ve been pursuing what I think is best, what I’ve really done is move consistently and confidently farther and farther away from Jesus and the life He has laid out for me.
Honestly guys, in my life rebellion can be full or partial. I can dedicate all my choices to getting as far away from the Lord as possible or I can refuse to give up certain parts of life that God wants me to surrender. Either way I end up far from where I should, cranky and frustrated, same as that long walk in Prague.
And I am faced with a choice, just like the people of Israel in the first chapter of Ezra.
Let me set the stage for you. The Israelites had been kept in captivity for 70 years during the Diaspora, and God worked through King Cyrus to allow them to return to their homeland. Ezra opens with this decree, and in verse five we see what happens next:
“Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:5 (NIV)
There’s a couple of important things to point out about this verse. One, while in their captivity away from the Lord, God moved or stirred the hearts of the Israelites to want to leave and go back home.
This is a big Truth! When we are far away from God, He will initiate our return. It may be through a passage of scripture, the word of a kind friend, a reminder from the past, or the lyrics of a song. Or it may just be taking a moment of quiet introspection in the midst of our pursuits and feeling the Holy Spirit move us towards repentance and change.
Regardless, He calls. He IS calling right now.
Second, once God had stirred their hearts, the people of Israel made the choice to prepare to go back home and rebuild the house of the Lord. Simply put, they turned around and went back, towards the Father that loved them and the specific plan He had for their lives.
What that tells me is that I have a responsibility in my rebellion to turn around and come back to Christ. It’s not just an acknowledgement that I’ve strayed far from the Lord, and it’s not just a desire to be closer to Him.
It’s a conscious choice that comes with a responsibility to move.
That may look like cutting some things out of my life that lead me to sin, or putting up some boundaries with people who have too much influence. It may cause me to totally throw out my own goals for my life in surrender to the King of all plans, or it may just mean being intentional in setting aside time to spend in seeking my Father.
Regardless, I must make a move in His direction. I have to start moving back to Him.
I know this probably sounds easier said than done. It’s hard to move back once you’ve strayed so far.
Thankfully, Who we are coming back to makes it all worth it.
When in Prague that day, we were so done with the whole process, that we immediately began to stereotype the city based on the two hours we spent walking in the wrong direction.
“This place is the worst.”
“Ugh, I wish we were back in Budapest.”
“Prague is my LEAST favorite city so far.”
But when we finally reached the city center and our initial destination, we were smacked in the face with the breathtaking depth of beauty and old-world charm that is Prague. In a word, that city is gorgeous. It is full of winding streets, colorful and ornate rooftops, and majestic buildings.
We would have never guessed the beauty that was ahead of us when we were two hours away in the opposite direction. And even though I may never say this to the friends I led to the cruddy side of Prague, I think it made it even more incredible by comparison.
God is like that too.
The best picture we have of how God receives those returning to Him is from Jesus’ own words in Luke 15.
“But when he came to himself, he (the prodigal son) said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:17-20
The parable of the prodigal leaves the son far away from home and his Father. He had chosen to take his inheritance and squander it by going his own way. But what a captivating picture of love, compassion, and acceptance this son received from his Father when he chose to get up and go back home!
Guys we have that! All of that! Every time we turn around and come back to the Lord, He runs to meet us, lavishes us with His lovingkindness, and there is pure celebration. That is Who our God is and how much He desires for us to be right there with Him walking into our best lives.
So, turn around and come back.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
Amy Bufkin has loved Jesus for as long as she can remember. Even though she basically lived at her local church growing up, her faith and relationship with The Lord was incredibly shallow until her early twenties. It was then Amy learned how to study her Bible, began to truly commune with God, and her shallow faith began to deepen as she got to know her Lord and Savior. Now her passion is to communicate the same truths that changed her life to young women in as many ways as possible. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook