Happy Day of Saint Patrick! When we lived in New Orleans, we always looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day. Schools and businesses closed, families got together for more feasting and merry making at the parades. It was at one of those parades that our lives almost changed forever.
My wife loves a good parade, and I’ve never seen parades like they have in New Orleans. Literally hundreds of thousands of people will line up in a three-mile stretch to watch the floats, listen to the music and catch all the lagniappe (i.e. extra/over the top trinkets and beads) thrown from the attendants (i.e. drunk people). Sounds fun, right? At the St. Patrick’s Day parades, attendants actually throw cabbages into the crowd based on some tradition years back that people would get their cabbages, carrots and potatoes at the parades for their St. Patrick’s Day stew. So, imagine a bunch of intoxicated attendants about ten-fifteen feet above you in their floats raining down bombs of cabbages into the crowd. It’s always fun until someone gets hurt.
Did I mention my wife loves a good parade? Well, parades for me are like shopping as a couple. For the purpose of marital harmony, some activities are best done apart. Standing among throngs of people for hours to catch some doubloons and beads that I’m going to wind up throwing away later, watching drunk people wobble precariously on top of floats, and listening to one high school marching band after another is not my definition of a good time.
But, as I said, it was at one of those parades that our lives almost changed forever. As I recall, it was a beautiful day. The kids, who were quite little, and I were waiting for Laura a safe distance from the crowds, while she tried to squeeze her way to the front to get one of those cabbages. (We were living off a church-planter’s salary after all.) Laura’s job was to get a cabbage. My job was to watch the kids—three little, squirmy kids who were on sensory overload. While I reached down to make sure my youngest son was fastened securely in his stroller, and while I was grasping my daughter’s hand tightly, my oldest son, who was probably about six years old, took off to join his mom near the front of the line. The problem was that he didn’t tell me. He just took off. I turned around, and Will was gone, swallowed up in a sea of noisy marauders. My heart began to race, as my eyes darted back and forth in every direction. I couldn’t leave my other two children, but holding on to them slowed my quest, especially in our attempt to squeeze through the jostling crowd.
Right as I was about to begin yelling for Will and implore the crowd for help, I saw Laura walking towards us with a cabbage in one hand and Will in the other. Mission accomplished. No harm, no foul.
Most parents have probably experienced something similar where you turn your back for one second, and one of your children takes off running in the other direction. I believe the reason we have such a deep panic in those moments is because we were created in the image of the God who pursues. God has relentlessly pursued us from the very first moments we hid from God in the Garden. “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Like the father who ran out to meet his wayward son, so God runs out to meet us at our point of brokenness and shame (Luke 15:20).
The heart of God is filled with compassion and mercy (Hosea 11:8). When we run from God, He is patient toward us, not wishing that any of us should perish, but that we would all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God has planted the seeds of His pursuing heart within us. We water the seeds through prayer and His Word. We watch the seeds grow as we open our hearts to others in selflessness and kindness.
Let us rejoice and give thanks to the God of pursuit. Let us reflect His character and love for all things lost. Let us be willing to enter the sea of marauders and feel compassion for those who are still far off. In the words of the old hymn, let us “rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save” (Fanny Crosby, 1869).