Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. — Psalm 139:7–8
In the classic children’s book The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown weaves a wonderful story about a little rabbit who wants to run away from his mother. But he can’t. Every escape plan he comes up with, his mother promises to foil. The bunny wants to become a fish so that he can swim away, but his mother pledges to become a fisherman so that she can catch him. The bunny suggests becoming a bird so that he can fly away, but his mother insists that she will become the tree that he flies home to.
After many failed proposals, the bunny finally decides that he will be a little boy so that he can run away, but his mother is quick to say that she will become his mother “so that I can catch you in my arms and hug you.” “Shucks,” said the bunny. “I may just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”
This sweet book captures the dual relationship between parents and children. On one hand, children often wish to run away from their parents because of conflict and their limited understanding of parents’ rules. The book also portrays the other side of the equation: the unwavering love of a parent for a child, a gift that is invaluable and beyond compare. While children may try to escape from their parents’ rules and discipline, ultimately, it is the parents’ presence that gives children the foundation on which they can be successful and independent in life.
Thousands of years earlier, this relationship was beautifully described in Psalm 139. Instead of being about rabbits or children, however, it is about our relationship with our Father in Heaven. Just as the little bunny cannot escape his mother, we cannot escape from God. As the psalmist wrote, “Where can I flee from your presence?”
The answer to this question can be daunting. God is always watching what we do – both the good and the bad. There is nowhere to run, no place to hide. Yet, God’s omnipresence is also comforting. In this lonely world, we are never alone. “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
Like the bunny finally realized, we may as well stop running. There is no way to run away from God; anywhere we go, He’ll be there. And that’s a good thing: “even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (v. 10). Wherever we may go in this life, we are with God, under His protective care. Truly, there is nowhere else I’d rather be. What about you?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President