If ever there was a book that screams “sentimental favorite,” The Runaway Bunny is it. As a kid, I couldn’t get enough of this story. And when my oldest son Matthew was celebrating his first Christmas, I bought him this book as a special gift. It didn’t matter that he was only a few months old and quite a long way from being able to snuggle up and follow the thread of the story. I wanted him to have this book, and I wanted to be the one to give it to him.
If you don’t know this story, it’s pretty simple. A little bunny tells his mom that he wants to run away. She responds by saying that wherever he goes, she’ll come after him. He tells her that he’ll turn himself into a flower in a hidden garden; she says she’ll become a gardener and come find him. He announces that he will turn into a rock high on a mountain; she says that she’ll become a mountain climber and climb up and find him. For every runaway scenario that he offers, she counters with a way that she can come and find him. And in the end, he decides that he might just as well stay at home and be her little bunny.
There’s probably no more comforting message for a small kid than this: the assurance, gently conveyed through simple words and sweet pictures, that Mom will always come find you. She loves you so much that she’ll scale mountains and wade into rivers to get you back. When I was young, this story made me feel all cozy and secure inside. And as a mom now, I read this story to my little Matthew bunny, and I think: Damn right. I’d do all of that and more for my little guys.
I’m not the first person to see a spiritual parallel in this book, I know. But lately, when I think about this book, I hear the echo of Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
Like the baby bunny, no matter where I run, God will follow after me. I really believe that. Even during the years when I was no fan of organized religion, I always believed in my gut that there was a God who would never leave me. And wow, what a relief that is. What a gift to know that no matter what I do or how many epically stupid choices I make, I can’t skate off the edge of God’s love. There is someone out there who knows everything there is to know about me and who loves me anyway, enough to drop everything and take whatever form is needed to bring me gently back home.
I can’t begin to express how comforting that is.
And I love that I can share this book with my own boys now. I love that the words fill them with that quiet confidence that Mom will go anywhere she needs to go and do anything she needs to do to bring them back. And I love that this book is giving them a taste, a gentle and subtle and sweet taste, of the relentless goodness that is God. I hope they find as much comfort in it as I have.