Running Away from Home
Laban Overtakes Jacob
On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. So he took his kinsfolk with him and pursued him for seven days until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night, and said to him, “Take heed that you say not a word to Jacob, either good or bad.”
Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsfolk camped in the hill country of Gilead. Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You have deceived me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword. Why did you flee secretly and deceive me and not tell me? I would have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre. And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? What you have done is foolish. It is in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Take heed that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’ Even though you had to go because you longed greatly for your father’s house, why did you steal my gods?” Jacob answered Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsfolk, point out what I have that is yours, and take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.
So Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them. And he went out of Leah’s tent, and entered Rachel’s. Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. Laban felt all about in the tent, but did not find them. And she said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me.” So he searched, but did not find the household gods.
Then Jacob became angry, and upbraided Laban. Jacob said to Laban, “What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? Although you have felt about through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsfolk and your kinsfolk, so that they may decide between us two. These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks. That which was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself; of my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. It was like this with me: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.”
Prayer of Thanksgiving
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish —hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
When we think about people running away from home, we typically think in terms of teenagers who either 1.) are tired of following their parents rules and/or 2.) believe they have found the love of their life and are trying to move in with them. While we can stand and look down our noses at a youth culture today whose morals are all over the map, the reality is, this story of running away from home probably fits our grandparents and great-grandparents better. Indeed, I would take it a step further and claim that this is particularly relevant to Christians. I cannot count the number of young Christian women who will testify to leaving home at some point (most admittedly under better circumstances than Jacob) and finding new surrogate parents in a new place. It is not just that we always need mentoring figures in our lives. We do. It is that sometimes we need corrective mentoring figures in our lives to help us over the hurdles left to us by our former guardians.
Sometimes, in extreme cases, those hurdles are put there by abuse and terrible experiences that no one should have to endure. Those are the cases when it is right to get out and get help. Most of the time, it is more subtle. Small kinds of neglect or disapproval – often disapproval of spiritual beliefs or church involvement. It is hard to grow as a young Christian when your parents, the ones made to nurture and encourage you, disapprove of your faith.
Probably, the most frequent occurrence is simply family conflict. When parents get into marital disputes, children are involved, whether they intend it to be or not. That conflict becomes internalized in children and hijacks their focus from anything and everything else. Grades falter at school, social lives dwindle, they make more mistakes on the playing field, and it becomes very difficult to engage with God and the Church. Those who can maintain a strong enough sense of self during those episodes often find a way to run away, finding or creating new “sanctuaries” where they can just unload all the turmoil they have gathered within themselves. Externally, they may still be living with their families, but inside, they too are runaways.
If you are considering running away, call someone safe and official, like a teacher, church worker, or law enforcement officer first. Runaways are some of the most victimized people all over the world. It is not wise or healthy to simply run away from your problems if you do not have somewhere safer you are running toward. That is not just for teens, that goes for everyone. So do yourself a favor that may save your life and find someone safe you can talk to and get help before you try to leave home.
God has a long history of working with runaways. Almost the entire history of Jewish patriarchs were runaways in one form or another, from Abraham to David. The disciples and the early Christians were as well. Most of the people to whom Paul and Peter, and the other NT authors wrote, were living lives slightly on the run, always looking over their shoulder and the shadows of their former lives. Some were being tempted to go back. Others were afraid of what was coming after them from those past homes. Are you living the life of a runaway? You are not alone.
The end of the matter for runaways, and really all of us is this: Jesus is building us a new home! For those of us living in those new homes now (no I don’t mean heaven, I mean living in the Kingdom of God today, we ourselves are being made into a home for those runaways looking for new homes in the Kingdom of God.
Where is your home?
Is it a place that nurtures your faith?
Is it a place that welcomes in runaways who are looking for sanctuary to be with God?