Bright future" said it all. Single, good looking, recent
college grad. His family loved him, girls noticed him, career
opportunities invited him.
And yet, while Eric appeared confident without, he was
tormented within. Tormented by inner voices he could not quiet.
Tortured by mental images he could not avoid and by thoughts
he could not understand. So, desperate to escape the torment,
Eric decided to escape from life. On a gray, rainy February day,
Eric walked out the back door of his home. He never returned.
When Eric walked away, someone was watching. His sister
Debbie saw her brother leave, his tall frame ambling down the
street. She assumed he would return. He didn't. She hoped he
would call. He didn't. She thought she could find him. She
couldn't. Hours became years. Years of wandering and wondering.
As Eric wandered, Debbie wondered. Where could he be? What
could have happened? Is he all right? Is he alive?
Where Eric journeyed, only God and Eric know. But we know
that he ended up thousands of miles from his home. And
somewhere along his path, somehow, Eric began to believe he had
been given an assignment. Someone noticed Eric going through a
dumpster, looking for food. And that someone suggested Eric sweep
up in exchange for the garbage. Eric interpreted this comment as an
assignment: He believed he had been given a permanent
commission to clean up a roadside in San Antonio, Texas.
To the local residents, Eric's lanky form and bearded face
became a familiar feature as he walked up and down his
"assigned" section of Interstate 10, gathering trash. Through the
years many tried to assist him, but Eric resisted. He was content
to survive on what he collected. He created a home out of a hole
in a vacant lot. He designed a wardrobe out of split trousers and
a torn sweatshirt. Summer sun was deflected by an old hat,
winter chill softened by a plastic bag covering his shoulders.
His weathered skin and stooped shoulders made him look
twice his forty-four years. But then, sixteen years living on the
side of the road would do that to you.
It had been sixteen years since Debbie had seen her brother.
And she might never have seen him again, had it not been for two
events. The first was the construction of a car lot on top of Eric's
hovel. The second was a pain in Eric's abdomen. The car lot took
Eric's shelter. The pain took Eric's health.
When EMS found Eric curled in a ball on the roadside, he
was already dying of cancer. Another few months and Eric would
be gone. And with no known family or relatives, he would die as
Eric's court-appointed temporary guardian couldn't handle
this thought. Surely someone is looking for this man, reasoned the
attorney. So the attorney searched the Internet for anyone missing
a brown-haired adult male with Eric's last name.
A reply came from a New Hampshire woman. Could this
homeless man in Texas be the brother she'd been seeking for so
long? The description seemed to match, but she had to know for
sure. So Debbie, her husband, and two children headed for Texas.
By the time Debbie arrived, Eric had been released from the
hospital. Debbie found him near his old home, resting against
the side of a building. One look was all it took to convince her-the
search was over. She saw beyond the sun-dried skin, beneath
the unkempt hair and beard. She saw her brother.
Eric, however, didn't recognize his sister. The years had
ravaged his mind. Debbie longed to embrace this long-lost
sibling, but her instincts told her she must await his cue.
And then something small led the way. Eric noticed an angel
pin Debbie was wearing. He was intrigued by it. When Debbie
offered the pin to Eric, he said yes. He even allowed her to pin the
angel on his shirt. And with that one gesture, she, at long last,
touched her brother.
Debbie came to Texas planning to spend a week. But a week
passed and she couldn't leave. She rented an apartment, began
homeschooling her children and reaching out to her brother. It
wasn't easy. He didn't always recognize her. He wouldn't call her
by name. One day he cursed her. He refused to sleep in her
apartment. He didn't want her food. He didn't want to talk. He
just wanted his vacant lot. He wanted his "job."
But Debbie didn't give up on Eric. Weeks became months, and
still the sister stayed. She understood that he didn't understand. So
she stayed. I came to know her as she began to attend our church.
After hearing her story, I asked what you would have asked. Why?
Why didn't she give up? "Simple," she told me. "He's my brother."
Her pursuit reminds us of another, doesn't it? Another kind
heart who left home in search of the confused. Another
compassionate soul who couldn't bear the thought of a brother in
pain. So, like Debbie, he left home. Like Debbie, he found his
And when God found us, we acted like Eric. We didn't
recognize the one who came to help us. When he told us we
were part of his family, we didn't believe him. When he offered
a safe place to stay, we didn't follow him. We ignored him.
Some even cursed him and told him to leave.
But he didn't leave. He lingered. And still he lingers. He
understands that we don't understand. He knows that we are torn
by many voices and infected by a cancerous sin. He knows we are
near death. But he doesn't want us to die alone.
Like Debbie, he wants to give us something before it's too
late. He wants to give us a place in his family. And he wants to
hold our hand when we die.
So God follows us. He pursues us along every roadside; he
follows us down every highway. He follows us all the days of our
lives. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my
life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6).
What a surprising way to describe God. A God who pursues us.
Dare we envision a mobile, active God who chases us, tracks
us, following us with goodness and mercy all the days of our
lives? He's not hard to find. He's there in Scripture, looking for
Adam and Eve. They're hiding in the bushes, partly to cover their
bodies, partly to cover their sin. Does God wait for them to come
to him? No, the words ring in the garden. "Where are you?" God
asks (Genesis 3:9), beginning his quest to redeem the heart of
man. A quest to follow his children until his children follow him.
Moses can tell you about it. After forty years in the desert,
he looked over his shoulder and saw a bush blazing. God had
followed him into the wilderness.
Jonah can tell you about it. He was a fugitive on a boat when
he looked over his shoulder and saw clouds brewing. God had
followed him onto the ocean.
The disciples of Jesus knew the feeling of being followed by
God. They were rain-soaked and shivering when they looked
over their shoulders and saw Jesus walking. God had followed
them into the storm.
An unnamed Samaritan woman knew the same feeling. Alone
in life and alone at the well, she looked over her shoulder and saw
a Messiah speaking. God had followed her through her pain.
The apostle John, banished on Patmos, looked over his
shoulder and saw the skies begin to open. God had followed him
into his exile.
Lazarus had been dead for three days in a sealed tomb when
a voice awakened him. He lifted his head and looked over his
shoulder to see Jesus. God had followed him into death.
Peter the Apostle had denied his Lord and gone back to
fishing when he heard his name and looked over his shoulder and
saw Jesus cooking breakfast. God had followed him in spite of his
Sin, wilderness, ocean, storm, pain, exile, death-our God is
the God who follows. Have you sensed him following you? He is
the one who came to seek and save the lost. Have you sensed him
Have you felt his presence through the kindness of a
stranger? Through the majesty of a sunset or the mystery of
romance? Through the question of a child or the commitment of
a spouse? Through a word well spoken or a touch well timed,
have you sensed him?
Like Eric, we have left home. But, like Debbie, God has
followed us. Like Eric, we are quick to turn away. But, like
Debbie, God is slow to anger and determined to stay. We don't
accept God's gifts. Yet God still gives them.
God gives us himself. Even when we choose our hovel over his
house and our trash over his grace, still he follows. Never forcing
us. Never leaving us. Patiently persistent. Faithfully present. He
uses all his power to convince us that he is who he is and he can be
trusted to lead us home.
By the way, Debbie's faithful persistence moved Eric's heart.
Before his life ended, he acknowledged her as his sister. In doing
so, he found his way home.
And that's what God wants for you. He simply wants you
home with him. And to bring you home, he offers you a gift.
My prayer is that through these pages you'll see his gift like
you've never seen it.
If you've already accepted it, you'll thank him again.
And if you've never accepted it, you will. For it's the gift of a
lifetime, a gift for all people.
The Gift of a Savior
The Word became a human and lived among us The
Word was in the world and the world was made by him, but
the world did not know him But to all who did accept
him and believe in him he gave the right to become children
of God Because he was full of grace and truth, from him
we all received one gift after another.
JOHN 1:14, 10, 12, 16
IT WAS ABOUT TO BEGIN-GOD'S PLAN FOR HUMANITY,
CRAFTED IN THE HALLS OF HEAVEN AND CARRIED OUT
ON THE PLAINS OF EARTH. ONLY HOLINESS COULD HAVE
IMAGINED IT. ONLY DIVINITY COULD HAVE ENACTED IT.
ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS COULD HAVE ENDURED IT. AND
ONCE THE PLAN BEGAN, THERE WOULD BE NO TURNING
BACK. THE CREATOR KNEW IT. THE SON KNEW IT.
AND SOON, EARTH ITSELF WOULD WITNESS HEAVEN'S
MAJESTY ALIGHTING ON THE PLANET.