Faith informs every aspect of my life. It is central in my decision making process. It guides my thinking and how I observe the world around me. It influences my view of politics and community involvement. And certainly the most fun part about faith is how it prompts me to engage people in my life.
One of my favorite names for The Author of Faith was coined by English poet, Francis Thompson. He wrote a poem titled The Hound of Heaven. It tells of the process of a man being sought by the Voice and the Feet of a pursuer. The man ran, even for years, from what he did not want to reckon with. It only took me 17 years to stop running.
If you’ve ever watched a pure-bred hound out in the field pick up the scent of its game, it’s a very fascinating sight. This cute little dog transforms from a sweet pup into a single-minded animal-tracking machine. Everything goes out of focus for the moment. The hound won’t stop until it finds what it is looking for.
Over the years, I have the same fascination of watching The Hound of Heaven at work in my life and in the lives of people around me as He seeks us out in compassion and kindness, wooing us into a better, more secure place in the knowledge of a Love that knows no end. Even now as a grown man I can recall the feeling of joy of being caught by The Hound as a teenager. And life has never been the same since.
But He’s not done. Even still, the Hound is constantly on my trail, looking for me. He is always inviting me away from waywardness to a better place of peace and rest.
How do I know if the Hound of Heaven is after me? I pay attention to these three encounters:
Dreams – I dream at night constantly and have for years. I have vivid stories played out in my mind, many of which I can recall in extreme, stark detail. At first I thought they were normal and everyone had them. But when I began to share them with friends, I would get puzzled looks back. I quickly learned that my dreams of this nature were not common and that I should pay closer attention to them. When I started writing them down, I could see a new meaning in them. I’ve come to recognize the baying of The Hound of Heaven through my dreams. That sound is unmistakable now. He has something for me in them.
Abundant Blessing – I keep a timeline in my journal titled History of Provision. I regularly look back through it and see the times where I have received abundantly and unexpectedly. One most notably was the gift that enabled me to retire all of Karen’s medical debt in 2012. The points on this map lead me back to my knees in gratitude and awe far more quickly now that I keep this perspective. Gracious Provision is another effective tactic of the Hound. HIs Kindness is the impetus for repentance, not judgment.
Mysterious People – I love how The Hound brings mysterious people into my life to carry a message to me. It is the unlikely or even uncomfortable source through which He likes to speak. During my college days, I recall the street preachers on campus who liked to yell condemnations to passersby. And every time there were students ready to take the bait and could not resist the urge to yell back. At the dorm one night, one of my hallmates was gloating about his exchange with Preacher Jim that day. “What an idiot,” he kept saying. I stopped him and asked, “Yeah, but what if a greater purpose out there was not about him at all, but about getting you to think differently about the course of your life.” The conversation immediately changed from gloating to vulnerable dialogue. The Hound was seeking him. I could see it and had fun watching Him work.
If you have a friend or relative that prays for you regularly, expect a mysterious person to show up and get your attention. That person will have a word for you. The Hound of Heaven has great hearing and doesn’t let the pleas of these faithful souls go unheard. My mother was that person for me, and still is. I attribute my turn towards a life of faith as a result of her petitions.
I was raised in a faith tradition that taught me I needed to tell people what to believe or else. I’ve rejected that position long ago. Showing Kindness is now my first concern and far more effective than judgment. I prefer to watch the trail where The Hound of Heaven is going and follow along.