I keep a block of wood in my office that has two symbols burned on the surface.
The symbols are a riddle of sorts. When students ask me about it, I have, in the past, required them to wrestle with the riddle for a while. My reasoning was that they would appreciate the meaning more if they had to work for it a bit. I recently (about an hour ago) decided that the riddle should remain a riddle no longer.
If you’re the kind of person that likes riddles, I’ll go ahead and give you the hint which is burned on the bottom of the block of wood:
Okay, you’re right … the title of this page is also a huge hint!
The first of the two symbols is the Greek letter Theta which, in some circles, refers to God. The second symbol is a non-artist’s rendering (using crude tools) of a person running. So, together they suggest: “God Ran”.
The “hint” on the bottom of the block of wood is a reference to a Biblical passage which I’ve included at the bottom of the page. It contains a story told by Jesus in which he explains what God is like. In the story, a father (God) has an ungrateful son who demands his inheritance early and leaves home only to squander all he has. The destitute son decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness. The father, seeing the son while he is still far off, runs to meet the son and welcomes him back to the family.
Why I Keep It On My Desk
There are a lot of theories in the world about God ranging from “there is no God” to “God is everywhere”. Virtually every philosopher in the world has felt compelled to take up the topic. When Jesus himself was trying to communicate what God was like he told a beautiful story that depicts a God who provides freedom of choice for his children, even when those choices result in suffering. That same God spends his days watching for the slightest indication that we want to return to his family. Even when we are still “far off” he comes running to us and without any chastisement, hesitation, or reservation, he welcomes us back with mercy, grace, and celebration!
That’s the God I believe in.
So, the block of wood on my desk is a reminder to me of what my God is like. It helps me as I try to be just like him.
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (New International Version)
There is a great song by Benny Hester entitled “When God Ran”. There are versions by various artists posted on YouTube. Here is posting with a version by Phillips, Craig, Dean: