Francis Thompson writes in his poem, The Hound of Heaven, “Still with unhurrying chase, / And unperturbed pace, / Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, / Came on the following feet, / And a voice about their beat – / ‘Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.’” He is rhyming about a God who pursues us relentlessly until we turn around from running and realize that it is he, after all, who we were seeking. It is this very Hound of Heaven that has been persistently chasing Bryton.
Bryton grew up in a family devoted to the Mormon faith. Her relatives, both extended and immediate, are all strong believers. But as she got older, she began to question the beliefs she had grown up with. Bryton’s doubt sprung from feeling unsatisfied in her relationship with God – it seemed to her that something was missing.
Unlike the person being chased in The Hound of Heaven, Bryton sensed and welcomed, albeit cautiously, the pursuing footsteps of God. She knew, in the same way that one recognizes that intangible feeling of love, that the Bible was true; but she had questions about the Book of Mormon. So she began reading the Bible avidly, discovering new things about Christ that were contrary to what she had been taught.
John chapter 1 especially caught her attention. Instead of Jesus being described as a separate person from God, as the Book of Mormon taught, John illustrates Jesus as being the Word who “was with God, and the Word was God…through him all things were made; without him nothing was made.” In that passage Bryton was captured by the truth that Jesus and God are one and the same.
With the truth that had taken hold of Bryton’s heart guiding her, she decided to share with her parents what she had been learning. They were less than receptive. In hopes that she might return to Mormonism, they asked her to transfer to Weber State in Utah in order to be closer to home.
But although her college changed, her heart didn’t. And she struggled with the rift that her new faith was causing between her and her parents. One of the hard sayings of Jesus comes from Matthew 10:37, when he tells his disciples, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” Following Jesus is costly, and Bryton was learning that first-hand. “My Christian heart was stuck in a Mormon home,” she said. It was hard for her to stay in her parents good graces without letting go of what she believed. So, to keep from trouble, she returned to the Mormon Church.
And so the Hound of Heaven continued to pursue Bryton, saying to her, “Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, / Save Me, save only Me? / All which I took from thee I did but take, / Not for thy harms, / But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.” Bryton loves and respects her parents, but she realized that she couldn’t deny what she knew to be true. It was only her faith in God that brought her peace, so despite what might happen with her parents, she once again turned towards God’s persistent footsteps.
Soon Bryton found a church where she met Mac Smith, an InterVarsity Campus Staff Member at Weber State. He took a great interest in Bryton, and invited her to a Bible Study that met in her dorm on Tuesday nights. InterVarsity provided Bryton a safe place to pursue a relationship with God and to find a community that supported and sustained her.
Before finding community in InterVarsity, she had doubt about whether she was doing the right thing; she didn’t want to disappoint her family, but God used her friends to affirm her decision and strengthen her faith.
Bryton’s story continues, but she has learned that God is ever faithful. In Romans 8: 31-32, Paul teaches that us that “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Bryton’s parents have slowly accepted her new faith and have come to the point where they simply ask that she find what she believes and live it with all her heart. “I am just so amazed with how God has provided me every opportunity to grow closer to Him,” Bryton said.
God pursued Bryton with the passion that he pursues us all. And when she stopped and turned long enough for the footsteps to reach her, the Hound of Heaven outstretched His hand and said to her, “Rise, clasp My hand, and come…Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest!”