I remember when I worked night shifts at a Group Home for youth ages 12-17. There could be three gents and three ladies living in that home at one time. Let me repeat; there were six troubled teens in one place trying to call this strange place home, and allowing strange adults who apparently {and yes, most certainly did} cared about them speak instruction, discipline and love where most of the time, there was never any sense of ‘healthy’ in their family home. Shift workers who changed from every 8-10 hours trying to make a difference caught in between six young people needing deserving one-on-one love and attention. This was never an easy time for me. My heart weighs heavy for people I hardly know, because I’ve fallen in love with that beating heart God created. I can’t remember a day of my life not feeling this way. Learning to leave it at the foot of the cross will take a lifetime of trial, and multiple errors. I’d stay awake for their protection during night shifts while they sat by their windows and smoked weed hoping I couldn’t smell the sadness. Daring to let the desperation get outside the barricades of their chest. To go AWOL. They didn’t know where to turn for stability or find hope for a future which to them seemed destined for doom. They couldn’t handle ‘healthier’ very well once they arrived to this place because it was so foreign to anything they’d ever known. I only wanted to breathe life into them. I just wanted to go searching in hope for life with them.

They’d go AWOL too. They wouldn’t just dream it; they’d live this life of leaving in hopes of finally finding something good, lasting and real. I won’t tell you specifics because I’m bound to and in love with confidentiality, but generally, they’d stick to some pretty typical ways of coping. They’d turn tricks at fourteen, flip drug deals or swallow themselves whole in those drugs. Sometimes they’d throw rocks at my face, chairs at my back or sit for entire days on a barely moving swing across the street at a park. Sometimes, they’d just go back to their family home. Back home where their families would hurt them and the house was a constant chaotic mess, but they knew that home and they loved what they knew. I’d have to call the police and send in reports and text their cell phones while hoping for response. I’d sit in the office with a pounding heart, pace by the door and to the living room window and I’d pray. I’d pray though they’d never know I would, that they would just come home and be in mostly one, only kind of broken piece.

Sometimes, I feel it. Sometimes, I understand. Sometimes, I’d like to just go AWOL too. Today, yesterday and a couple years into it, it still feels like a good day to just go AWOL. Of course most days I don’t care to go AWOL and wouldn’t even consider it. But I’d be entirely dishonest if I said I never wanted to run across continents just be absent without leave… without permission.

They barely knew me, those beautiful youth. But I love them all very dearly. I’d stay up through entire nights to bake them cookies and warm bread, fold the fresh laundry they refused to even wash, and write notes of encouragement for the lunches they’d take to school though, they would rarely actually be found at school. They have such beautiful souls.rolls

I think that’s how Jesus rolls. I think that’s what He does because that’s who He is. I think while I’m drifting to dreams of AWOLing, he’s busy baking something sweet for my life, folding and cleaning what I don’t even want to face, and writing encouraging notes of love all over the skies and throughout my nights. I think He’s sending out floods of protective angels to find me, talking quietly and hoping I’ll get back to Him soon. I think He does this for me, and I think He’s doing it for you too.

Sometimes, I’d like to AWOL too. But friend, it makes the world of difference those times when I don’t feel I  belong just to recall His love is never sleeping, is ever awake and eternally attentive. And every time I’d like to leave all I know, I remember He just wants to be around to breathe life into me, go searching in hope for life with me. I can’t help in these moments to realize in Him, I’m always, always home. You, beautiful soul, most certainly are too.