I was sitting in a new church, in a new city, feeling very unknown again for the umpteenth time. It was my first time to the church, and while it felt warm and welcoming, I still felt new, knowing not a single person there.
It was the end of actually a really touching, raw and honest church service, and the worship band started to play, and the song that we all began to sing was not new to me. Somehow in the singing of a common song, I felt a little less alone, a little less like a stranger. It was a song I’d sung in the past with people who knew me as well as you can know a person. It was a song I’d sung before when I was new in a church, feeling uncomfortable. It was a song I’d sung on my own, in my bedroom while journaling through some dark times.
I knew the song well, and it seemed to know me in my broken moment.
These are the lyrics:
Higher than the mountains that I faceStronger than the power of the graveConstant in the trial and the changeOne thing remainsOne thing remains
Your love never fails, never gives upNever runs out on meNever runs out on meNever runs out on me
On and on and on and on it goesIt overwhelms and satisfies my soulAnd I never, ever, have to be afraidOne thing remains
In death, in life, I’m confident andCovered by the power of your great loveMy debt is paid, there’s nothing that canSeparate my heart from Your great love
And I stood there singing this song that I knew so well when all of a sudden I realized something about it for the first time.
At the end of the second verse, as it goes into the chorus again, these are the words: “I never ever have to be afraid… one thing remains… your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.”
As I sung those words, I realized that to me, what I’ve been meaning when I sing this is a reminder to myself: I don’t have to be afraid, God’s love never runs out on me. But not in the “We ran out of money now we don’t have any” way, but in the “my dad ran out on us” way.
I had never realized before that I’m afraid that love will run out on me. That those who love me will leave. That the God who created me would just decide that I’ve been taking too long, wandering too far, questioning too much, and that he would decide it wasn’t worth it to chase me anymore. I never would’ve voiced that before, but that’s the deep fear, the deep ache of things too scary to think about — that maybe God’s love, and others people’s love will run out on me.
And in terms of other people, that’s a real fear, because it’s a real possibility. I’m learning to trust people with my heart again, but that piece is still there.
But with God I’d never realized that that was a fear of mine as well. That’s not based in truth, or in experience. It’s just fear. And this song, that line, it speaks to those vulnerable, fearful places deep inside me and reminds me of what’s true: I don’t have to be afraid, God’s love will never run out on me. And it will never run out on you.
My favorite image of God is based in an old English poem I found tucked away in a book at my Uncle’s cabin one year, and it has stayed with me ever since. It’s called “The Hound of Heaven.” God is the hound of heaven, like a relentless dog that pursues and pursues and pursues us, across ages and spaces. We don’t have to run to God. I really believe that. We just have to stop running away and let him catch us.
This hound of heaven picture is what I know to be true of God — that he not just won’t run out on me… he’ll run after me. And he’ll never stop. His love is ferocious in it’s pursuit, relentless in it’s goal, and gentle in it’s touch. That’s what I know of God.
His love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.
And that calms my fears more than anything else ever could.
Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
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