Monday, May 17, 2010

The Runaway Romance Writer

By Susanne Dietze

Our leather recliner is the go-to spot for cuddling kids in my house. When one of my children needs a bit of Mom Time, we head toward the chair, put our feet up, get comfy, and snuggle. Sometimes we just talk; other times there’s a book involved.
I know these days of snuggling are numbered. The kids will grow too big to fit on my lap. They will start to complain about my coffee breath. Or (as Kid #1 is starting to do) they'll change, and maybe prefer to get their affection in the form of touching me with a toe while we're on the couch.

So when someone wants to snuggle with me, I open my arms and settle in. The other day I had a small, warm body on my lap, and though the child in question can read chapter books quite well by himself, he and I perused a picture book – the sort of book we adults don’t much discuss but which, in my humble opinion, provide soothing pleasure. The combination of text and artwork invites leisurely reading and the chance to savor the details in the pictures.

The Runaway BunnyImage via Wikipedia

The book was The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown’s 1942 classic, illustrated by Clement Hurd. (They’re the team responsible for another family favorite, Goodnight Moon.) In this short, sweet little story, the baby bunny decides to run away from home. There’s no reason for running away that I can discern, other than rebelliousness. But he’ll go anywhere and will change his form if necessary to escape. At every point, however, he is rebutted by his loving mother, who always runs after him with loving arms extended. (Or paws. Whatever rabbit arms are.)

In the zillion-odd times I’ve read this story, I’ve thought about how I’d do anything to keep my kids safe, just like the Mother Bunny. But to be honest, I relate to this story more as the child than the mother. Part of it goes back to being a kid: I remember acknowledging the parallel between Mother Bunny and my own mom, whose love was fierce and protective. Granted, I didn’t run away from home. I did other things, though, from painting blue streaks in my hair to dating Wrong Man on Campus.

Even though my hair is no longer blue, I continue to relate to the story as a child. I’m aware of how much I am still like the Baby Bunny, especially in my relationship with the Lord.

I’ve chafed at God’s protection and inched away from Him, sneaky-like. Other times, like Baby Bunny, I’ve informed Him of my great plans.

“I am running away.”

And I’ve run, believe me, I’ve run. I’ve thought my own ways to be supreme, ignoring God’s Word and His plans for me. Talk to that person who’s hurt you. Forgive. Let go.

No way, God, I've said with my words and my deeds. I'm running away.
I don't always know why I do it. Maybe sometimes the pain of where I am is too deep, so I forget that the pain goes with us when we run. Maybe I yearn for adventure, change, or the (perceived) thrill of sin. Maybe I get a bug in my craw and I disagree with God, just like self-righteous Jonah (and look how well that turned out.) Sometimes, though, there’s no concrete reason for me to run, just as Baby Bunny offers no reason. It’s rebellion, pure and simple.

To his declaration of intent to take off, the mother bunny replies, in the matter-of-fact manner of a confident love, “I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.”

So the baby increases his threat. He imagines ways to escape his mother, forms he might take on to disguise himself. Situations where she cannot follow.

“’If you run after me,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.’”

The mother insists, “I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”

Throughout the story, the mother changes into whatever is necessary in order to seek, await, or receive her baby. She is willing to become the mountain he’ll scale if he becomes a rock climber, the gardener to tend him should he transform into a crocus, or the tree where he’ll nest if he sprouts wings. She’ll become the wind itself in order to blow his sailboat to safety, or take on human flesh to embrace him if he becomes a two-legged boy. The mother will give up herself to be with and protect her baby.

How like Jesus, taking on our flesh to reach out to us. How like our Savior, Emmanuel, who became man to seek, await and receive us. I can’t help thinking of several Scriptures that remind me that God did whatever it took to “run after” me:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14

If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?...In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. Matthew 18:12, 14

But while (the prodigal son) was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:2-3

God knows our needs, wants, yearnings, and failures. He loves us despite our rebellions, grumbles, and attempts to run away. He took on our flesh to show us just how much.

In the end of the story (to the unwary, spoiler alert!) the baby accepts that he can’t get away from his mother, no matter how hard he tries. There’s nowhere he can go, no form he can change into, where she won’t follow. Her love is always with him. So he settles in at home for a nice carrot and a snuggle.

Simple truths, perhaps. But I still need the message that God isn’t through with me yet, that I’m worth enough to Him that He’ll chase after me. Love me. Await me with expectant arms, the way I wait for my kids in our leather recliner, inviting a snuggle. Every rebellion in my life has been a sign of my need for God, a faulty attempt to heal something broken that only He can heal.
I’m working at being more like the baby bunny at the story’s end, settling into a deeper acceptance of God’s love for me, satisfied with His provision. There are still times when I bolt like a rabbit from the pressures of life, my heart thunking wildly in fear. But one of the most amazing things about God is that even when I’m running off, He’s with me on the road, offering me yet another chance to come home.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, copyright 1942, Harper & Row Publishers.

Please forgive the wretched quality of my photos. I propped the book on my kitchen table and went to town. And it shows!

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  1. Lovely post, Susanne! I'm guilty of stomping my foot and thinking, "I'm running away!" more often than I'd like to admit. This story reminds me of Psalm 139, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?"
    BTW, I want a picture of Susie with blue-streaked hair! : )

  2. Beautiful, Susie. You ministered to me today. I've never read the book, but I want to now!

  3. Good morning! I'm still a bit bleary eyed here, but I've got a strong cup of coffee and I'm glad to see y'all this morning.

    Thanks, Niki! Whoa, that would have been a wonderful verse to include in this post. And it's one I need to tape to my computer monitor or mirror so I know it inside and out.

    I don't think I have any pics of me with blue hair :-) Hey, it was the '80s. About that time, my mom and I were in a fabric store and I was a ways off from her, looking at patterns. Another woman chatted with my mom, brought up the scary youth of the day, and pointed at me. My mom, bless her heart, informed the lady that I was her daughter and we were in the fabric store because I was being honored for my academic achievement at school and I needed a dress. And if my hair was my worst rebellion, well, she'd consider herself lucky.

    I think rebellion is a theme I'm dealing with right now! Kids growing, the barriers I place in my relationship with the Lord... I need to dig into the Bible on this one for some more study!

  4. Hey Lisa, it is a sweet little story that's just one of a bunch of books in our house that I call "Mommy love" books. Another is "Mama Do You Love Me?" about an Inuit girl asking if her mother would still love her if she did some accidental or naughty things (like break the family's ptarmigan -sp- eggs) or if she changed into something dangerous (like a bear). Much like God, the mother sometimes wishes better things for her daughter but always loves her with fierce and never-ending love.

  5. Thank you Susie! It is a favorite! What a good reminder of how patient and persistent our God is. May we all enjoy a good carrot today.

  6. Hey Karl, thanks for coming by. I too love how patient God is, ever-ready to enfold us in His arms, no matter what we've done or where we've gone.

  7. So beautiful Susie! When you said "And I’ve run, believe me, I’ve run. I’ve thought my own ways to be supreme, ignoring God’s Word and His plans for me" it made me think that I've done the same thing, only knowing that my ways were not supreme. Rebellion!

    What a great story. I'm going to pick this book up for the grandkids. I love Goodnight Moon and I could see the illustrator's style right away.

    Where can a child go where they don't drag their mother's heart along with them? Nowhere, it seems.
    What a great symbol of our Father's love.

  8. Deb, I love this book -- and Goodnight Moon, which is probably still the family favorite. We love how the illustrations in the two books are tied together, with the painting of the cow jumping over the moon appearing in both.

    Another Margaret Wise Brown book my kids loved is Big Red Barn. It isn't illustrated by Clement Hurd, which is too bad. Still sweet. No mama theme, but a rhyme about the animals in the barn, all flowing with Brown's poetic cadence. I hope your grandchildren enjoy these books as much as we have.

  9. My favorite Margaret Wise Brown book is The Golden Egg Book. I think the Runaway Bunny was too convicting for me, lol!

  10. Hey D'Ann! I have never heard of the Golden Egg book. I am going to have to hit the bookstore! Thanks!

  11. What a delightful post, Susie. I never heard of this book before and now I don't think I'll ever forget.

    I won't go into my childhood and my thoughts on running away here because I don't want to today. However, I'll tell you my hubby said he ran away quite often. He'd run a block or so and then get hungry and go back home. It sounded like a joke in their family.

    I love that we can't run away from God. Thanks for this post, Susie.


  12. Hey Anita, thanks for the comments. Cute story about your husband. My son hopped on his tricycle once and declared he was off to Grandma's, 350 miles away. Those sorts of stories do make it into family lore, don't they?

    You know, you brought up a valid point and I'm glad you did. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for those who suffer from abuse or neglect. Running away from terror like that isn't what I meant in the post, and I realize I should have clarified it somewhat. I also know firsthand how deeply some families grieve when a child runs off, as happened with friends of our family's. The parallel I drew between running away from God and the baby bunny running from mama is personal to me and I should have made that clearer.

  13. Susie, beautiful post :-) I hadn't heard of the Runaway Bunny either and I love how you've tied in the spiritual parallel of running from God. Definitely food for thought.

  14. Lovely, Susie, just lovely. I've not read this book before, but the spiritual truth is so perfectly obvious here. I love this line: “I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.” It makes me sigh with satisfaction, picturing God saying, “I will run after you. For you are my little child.” And we can rest in the knowledge that he will never stop seeking us out. Just what I needed at the end of my day.

  15. Thanks, Narelle. It is a sweet book, though it's also been around for over sixty years! Amazing that it's still in print! If you see it, it's worth thumbing through, even for the illustrations.

  16. Suzie, I love that: "I will run after you. For you are my little child." We are so blessed to have a Creator who loves us with such fierceness, such grace. Who pursues us and awaits us. Thanks for warming my heart today.


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