I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind…
Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven
Francis Thompson was a young man in search of himself. His family wanted him to be successful. (Who doesn’t want that for our kids?) He himself wanted the same. More than that, he wanted to earn a look of pride from his father, his mother. But steady work, a wife and family were not in his cards.
I heard a woman speak once. She said, “no one sets out to be a drug addict.” No one chooses a life of waking up in the morning only to be met with that gnawing hunger, every single day. One thing leads to another and it just happens. Francis was addicted to laudunum. Prescribed in 19th century medicine for a variety of ills, no one really knew the devastation it’s deceptive claims would bring.
I set out to read The Hound of Heaven, because it was one of those things I have heard about for years. I didn’t realize I would find a man so broken, so devastated, that he sold matches to passersby on the streets of London to keep from starving. However, his passion for writing didn’t succumb to the same fate his body suffered. He carried his manuscripts with him. He had no full suit of clothes, but he had his papers, pen and ink. When he dropped a package off at the printer’s shop one day, a note of introduction accompanied the manuscript. In it, he apologized for the condition of the offering. He noted the pages had been his constant companion and therefore also bore the ravages of his life.
Sometimes I am struck by the similarities of our cultures. Across continents, cultures and races, we bear the same passions and hurts, the same needs and desires, the same, the same. We are more alike than not. And, it seems, we have the same problems over time! Shouldn’t we have drug addiction licked by now? How about slavery, and the enlightened 21st century version called human trafficking? How about racism? I thought we had that one put away for good. After the peace marches of the 60’s, I thought that baby had grown out of its diapers. One thing I have seen for myself, we each have to learn the truth. No one can beat it into you. It is a common theme at my workplace to have diversity training. Really. That seems like a no-brainer to me. If I want to hang on to my prejudices and biases, is training going to change that? And, if I have already dealt with the reality that people are different from one another and I respect and uphold their right to express themselves differently, how is training going to help me? Sorry, I’ve been holding that one in too long…
So, maybe you’ve guessed, the “Hound of Heaven” is Jesus. Thompson realized everything he has sought, that would bring him love, peace, acceptance, only brought emptiness, chaos, and rejection. The fear of losing himself (to God) was replaced with love so intense and full, it could accept him exactly as he was. The Hound of Heaven pursued him in all his squalor. He need not clean up first.
The “wise”men, were complaining that Jesus spent his time with notorious sinners, even eating with them!
“So Jesus told them this story: ‘If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” (Luke 15:4-6 NLT)
Jesus doesn’t have a problem with us…we have a problem with Him…we keep running away.