that dog

Thursday night, I was woken quite abruptly by two shaking paws on my pillow and hot panting in my face. It was my Border Collie, Boo. She was terrified of something, so much so that she had broken through the barrier of card tables and chairs that we put up every night to keep her downstairs.

From past experience, I knew she'd never calm down on her own. But after being awoken in the middle of the night, I wasn't at all in the mood the calm her either. I herded her out of my room, down the hall, down the stairs, through the broken barricade, and into the living room. As fast as I could in my half-awake state, I hopped back through, replaced the tables and chairs, and jumped up the stairs three at a time. From around the corner I watched her, praying that she wouldn't get through. My prayer wasn't answered. I took her back again, and set up the "extreme" barrier, using more chairs and nearly all the couch cushions. Instead of 3 seconds, this one took her 30 to get through. I was far more than frustrated at this point.

I finally noticed that what I thought was my half-awake vision was actually flash after flash of lightning in the distance. Even though Boo is 90% deaf, the frequent flashes were enough to cause all this. I considered just blindfolding her. Actually, now I kind of wonder why I didn't try that.

Mom and Dad couldn't do anything either (and this is my dog, after all). I settled miserably onto the living room couch, trying desperately to mentally tune out her constant panting in my ear. My dog is one of my best friends, but when she (or anyone...) prevents me from sleeping when I'm exhausted, I lose all patience. All of it. Boo jumped on top of me, shaking in terror. In midday, I probably would have comforted her, rubbed her, pet her, talked gently in her ear. But in the middle of the night I turned and shoved her forcefully off me. Time after time after time she continued, and each time I tried to endure it, and finally threw her off me, hoarsely telling her to STOP IT!!!!!!!!

Three hours later, I was even more desperate. At this point I was praying, trying to reconcile my theology with this painless torture. "Okay God," I said, "I know You've got some reason for this, but what in the world could being kept awake by a stupid dog really lead to?! I highly doubt this is worth it. In fact, God, it would be really great if I could find some spiritual parallel here to write a blog post on. I guess I might be okay with that. But my first choice is definitely just a miraculous cessation of the terrified shaking, trembling, panting, clawing... yes please."

So... here I am. Determined to find a spiritual lesson to draw from this otherwise miserable experience.

Drawing a blank. Help me out, God.

Okay, well, we can learn a lot about what God is not. God loves unconditionally, meaning without condition. So when we come running to Him in terror, even when our fear is unreasonable, He doesn't barricade the stairway. He doesn't throw us off the couch. He doesn't yell at us to stop it. Well, not exactly.

In fact, He does tenderly tell us to stop it. In His love letter to us, you can find over 300 places in which He tells us "do not fear." Here are a few:

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand... For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:10,13

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

"So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:31

"This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" Matthew 6:25-26
These phrases are not worded as little suggestions or pieces of advice. I fully believe that God meant every word as a command, telling us to trust Him. Really, at the center of fear/worry/anxiousness/stress/etc., it is a lack of trust. I've posted this quotation by Francis Chan before, but maybe it needs to be heard afresh. 

“Worry implies that we don't quite trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives. Stress says the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional. Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we've been forgiven, that our lives are brief ... and that in the context of God's strength, our problems are small, indeed.”
Boo didn't trust me. She still wanted me to comfort her and be there for her, and I'm grateful for that (now). But if she actually trusted me enough to believe I would always do what's best for her, she would have known she didn't need to worry about the lightning. If she trusted that I knew best, she wouldn't have to fear the unknown.

Maybe you're like my dog today. You're terrified of something, lost in fear or confusion. I believe God is telling you to trust Him. He's saying over and over again, "Do not fear. I have this under control. I am your God. You are worth more than you even know. Listen to Me. Believe Me. Trust Me." 

Maybe you want to believe it, but you can't. You're trying, but the fear is still there. I want you to know that God will not desert you. This is the God who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This is the God who walked on earth, heard the plea of the man crying "I believe; help my unbelief," and then healed that man's son. This is the God who pulled Peter up from the water when Peter's doubt and fear caused him to sink. This is the God who came to doubting Thomas and helped him overcome his doubts. 

At the core, remember the He loves you. He loves you perfectly - far far far more than I love my dog, clearly. And that in and of itself gives us reason to leave fear behind and run into the full light of freedom. 

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." 1 John 4:18

Wow, thanks God. There really was something to learn from that sleepless night with a freaked-out dog.  Help me to be more like You; more loving and more faithful. And help me to be also like my dog, and come to You no matter what.
my dog and my dad. faithfulness.


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