Ever heard of Francis Thompson? Young guy, drop out, drug addict, drifter, sometime homeless. Eventually diseased and dead at 48.
Probably not the kind of guy you would want to hang out with nor call a friend. And certainly not the kind of guy you would be inclined to be loyal to.
But right before his death in 1907, Thompson came to know to very the core of his soul what true loyalty was. He expressed it in his poem, “Hound of Heaven.”
“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him,
and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated, Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”
The poem goes on and as Thompson unsuccessfully seeks peace through various human pursuits, he continues to hear, but ignore, the Voice that follows him unfailingly.
The poem, on its surface, is a dark story reflecting Thompson’s lifelong struggles. But beneath the surface, it is truly a love story. Thompson’s Hound of Heaven is God, our Good and Great God who loves us so much, He follows us through each step of our lives. He is at our side. He is loyal.
And so King David says:
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.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.