One of the resources that I have been utilizing has been Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels by Tullian Tchividjian. In it, Pastor Tullian goes through the book of Jonah and mentions a poem by Francis Thompson. After reading the opening stanza, I could not shake it. I had to know more about the poem and the man behind it.
Francis Thompson was a English poet born in 1859 to a wealthy family. His parents wanted him to become a physician like his father, a career that he did not want for himself. He failed the exam three times and finally ran off to London. It is there that Francis Thompson became addicted to opium and lived in destitution. He submitted a poem to a magazine, whose editors, a couple named Wilfred and Alice Meynell, sought out and found Francis and took him in.
Despite Francis' publication of his first work, he still faced tough times. Drug use took a toll on his health and he lived as an invalid in extreme poverty and poor health. Francis had gotten to the point of attempting suicide to escape. A prostitute, who Francis later writes about but never names, rescues him from the streets, takes him in, and shares her income with him. In 1892, Francis lived near and received help from a Franciscan community and finally escapes his drug addiction. It was here that The Hound of Heaven was first published. He died in 1907 at the age of 48 of tuberculosis.
I think in a way Francis understood the Gospel on a level that is often missed or taken for granted. Francis understood that God had been passionately pursuing after him and he could not out run or escape his grasp. This is the Gospel, God passionately pursues a rebellious people and draws them back into fellowship with Himself. He goes to such length as to enter His creation, live a perfect life of obedience, suffer, die, and rise again.
At times it feels like God is far from us, that God does not care nor love. Nothing can be further from the truth.
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39