What are you chasing in life? What are you pursuing? What will it be like when you get it?

About a month ago, I wrote about my Basset Hound Julius who liked to sun himself on the yellow stripe out in the middle of the highway.  Julius had other peculiar habits as well, one of which was chasing rabbits.

In spite of his short, stubby legs, Julius could move rather fast.  His speed, however, was no match for the cotton tails that frequented our property.  That did not discourage Julius, though.  He would spot a rabbit in an open patch and plan his stalk.  He would slink from one bush to another, then from there to a tuft of weeds until he was within what he thought was a good striking distance.  At that point, he would leap into an all-out sprint toward the rabbit, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake, absolutely convinced he would catch the rabbit “this time.”

He never did.  Try as he might, the rabbits were always faster.

One day I looked out the window to see Julius skulking toward a huge Jack Rabbit.  I mean this creature was at least a third bigger than Julius himself.  Julius did not seem the least bit afraid, though.  Finally, he made his dash toward the rabbit, and the chase was on.  However, instead of heading directly toward the cover of the cane field like the cotton tails would do, the big Jack seemed to toy with the dog.  He ran ahead in a large circle, doubling back, making figure eights, crisscrossing back and forth. 

Finally, Julius got wise to it, and tried to head the rabbit off, only to have the rabbit turn and head into the cane field.  Not deterred, Julius plowed right into the stand of cane, and I could see the cane stalks waving and moving as the rabbit and dog ran through them.  Round and round they went for a long while, until finally Julius emerged in a dead run, his long ears flapping behind his head.   He seemed to be running for his life.

Just behind him, the big Jack Rabbit emerged in a dead run, right on Julius’s heals.  The hunter had become the hunted.  With one big leap the Jack landed smack in the middle of Julius’ back and began to kick, scratch, and bite him without mercy.  Julius howled and howled until finally, the big Jack Rabbit let go and headed for the woods, and Julius went off to lick his wounds. 

Julius never chased another rabbit.

We human beings are a lot like Julius many times.  We think we really want something.  We pursue it with all that we have.  Wealth, power, prestige, possessions … Then, when we have “caught it,” we find that it has really caught us.  As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

In his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul tells us that he had the same problem.  His goal was to pursue goodness and righteousness, to become the best good man he could be.  However, he goes on to tell us he came to the place where he counted all his good works as “rubbish.”  They really didn’t mean anything because he had misplaced his faith in his own efforts.

In Philippians 3: 7-10, Paul tells us, “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death …”

What are you chasing in life?  What are you pursuing?  What will it be like when you get it?

Paul reminds us that the only thing really worth pursuing is to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Otherwise, we are just chasing rabbits.

(The Rev. Al Henager is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Heber Springs, Arkansas.  He can be contacted at alhenager@gmail.com.)