Latest update: May 20th, 2012
Upon request, I am sharing the following story from my friend, Mrs. S.
Two years ago Mrs. S. was divorced after an unhappy, childless marriage. Now in her mid-60s, she has no interest in finding a new husband. At this time, she told me, she is just beginning to discover herself as an independent adult, and she is reveling in the opportunity to make her own choices on everything from what to cook for dinner to what color to paint the bedroom. The road to independence has been difficult. Using imagery from Psalm 23, she told me that she has come through the dark valley and is now walking in sunlight. However, she still wasn’t feeling that God was with her.
Indeed, where was God during the dark years of her marriage? Why hadn’t she had children? Why was she alone and struggling financially at this time of her life? Why wasn’t God taking care of her? She told me that all these thoughts had been eating at her for a long time – to be honest, since before her divorce.
Another, simpler thing that bothered her after her husband moved away was loneliness. Being alone in the house was scary, but she was unable to sell it due to the poor housing market. Finally she decided to get a dog. She went to the local animal shelter and found a small poodle mix to adopt. Soon she and the dog had become great companions. He followed her around when she was busy, slept quietly at her feet when she read, and sat in the kitchen doorway brimming with hopeful anticipation when she cooked. After she had a “dog door” installed he was able to go out to the fenced yard when he needed to, so she could leave him alone when she went to work.
“About once a week I take him to the dog park,” she related. “There he can run around freely and play with other dogs. He loves it. He makes friends with the other dog owners and roughhouses with the other dogs. The one thing he doesn’t do is pay any attention to me. Some dogs huddle near their owners. Not mine. Once I let him off his leash, he doesn’t come near me until I call him to go home. I used to think he was so busy he just didn’t even remember I was there.
“Then one day he was playing with some other dogs about 80 feet from me. A French Bulldog, about twice my dog’s weight, started barking aggressively at me. Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, my dog streaked up to me. He didn’t attack the other dog; he didn’t even act aggressively. He just dashed up to me and jumped on me, his whole rear end wagging to beat the band. The other dog took one look and wandered off to find someone else to bully. As soon as the “danger” was gone, my dog ran back to his friends and resumed his game.”
She paused thoughtfully before continuing her story. “I thought about this for a long time. We had been in the park for about half an hour, and during that time he hadn’t come near me, although I was keeping my eye on him. I was sure he had totally forgotten about me and didn’t have a clue where I was. However, the minute I was threatened, he was there protecting me.
“That night, when we were taking our evening walk, I was thinking of how protective he had been when suddenly he crossed from my left to my right. Sometimes he walks in a proper ‘heel’ position, just behind me and to the left, and sometimes he lags behind. Usually, however, he walks in front of me – not dragging on the leash, just keeping a few paces ahead of me. That evening when he changed position I looked around and saw that someone had gotten into a car across the street just ahead of us. My dog had placed himself between this possible danger and me. After that, I noticed that he changes position whenever he perceives a danger. Whenever he sees another person, a moving car, or something out of the ordinary like a pile of rubbish by the curb, or if he hears something behind us, he gets between it and me. He is doing his 14-pound best to keep me safe.
“I suddenly realized that this is how God is in our lives. We pray to him, we pay attention to him, but he has a big world to run. Often it seems to us that his back is turned and he doesn’t even know we’re around. Sometimes we’re going straight ahead in a path that seems right, when suddenly an obstacle appears that makes us change course. We get upset at the roadblock in our path and may even cry out to God about this problem.
“My dog taught me a new way to understand God’s actions in our lives. Even when God seems to be ignoring us, he’s aware of us and what’s happening to us, and he’ll bring us his protection (although we might not recognize or accept it). Obstacles, like my dog crossing in front of me, are thrown in our paths to move us away from something he recognizes as danger – even if we don’t. With my dog, I am more accurate at perceiving true danger than he is. But with God, I’m sure there are things that look innocuous to me that He knows are true dangers. Those roadblocks are God leading us in a safer, better direction.
“And when we call, God answers, even though the answer might not be in a language we can readily understand.”
Mrs. S. smiled and nodded. “I’ve learned a lot in these last few years,” she said. “But I never thought I’d learn my most important lessons from my dog.”
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