Last week, one of my dogs escaped from my apt and was lost for approximately 24 hours. I hated every minute of those 24 hours.
About 2 hours into realizing he was missing, I discovered that a couple of men who hang out at the corner liquor store every day had gone around the neighborhood trying to sell him. They aren’t the most kosher gentlemen; sometimes it’s hard to have a conversation with them because they are abundantly full of liquor and substances. So, my first thought was, “Help! My dog is being trafficked!” Images of animal torture, animal mills, roadkill, and other unspeakable animal cruelties assaulted my imagination. Perhaps I was being a little melo-dramatic, but the thought of my furry lovable dog at the mercy of doped up dog-traffickers, whizzing cars, and cruel dog-stealing kidnappers who will cage him up, drove me a little crazy. I later found out that Agee had bitten one of the gentlemen and managed to get away from him. I had to grill this gentleman hard to get this information. But, that’s where the trail stopped cold.
Mercifully, another gentleman in the neighborhood had seen Agee and taken him in. Fed and bathed him, and gave him a place to stay the night. The next day, his niece saw one of my flyers and called me. Agee was back home within 24 hours–no missing persons report necessary.
That evening–about 3 hours later–he escaped again. To the liquor store. The manager called me (he had my number…I literally had posters everywhere) to tell me my dog was inside his store. Running to retrieve Agee, I waved to the gentlemen who had tried to traffic him, as they were at their usual posts outside the store.
The next day, Agee escaped again. To the liquor store. The manager called me again, and when I ran out to get him, there Agee was, chumming it up with one of the gentlemen who had formerly tried to sell him–the one Agee had bitten. The gentleman was rosy-cheeked and drunk, and a very happy drunk at that. He spilled my furry dog into my open arms after kissing him and almost kissing me–I ducked and took an awkward hug instead, since I’m not in the habit of receiving kisses from men I barely know.
I thought this would be the last time–3x had to have been the last, right? Nope. The next day, I got a phone call around 8pm while at my sister’s place. Two young teenage girls on the other line–I could almost hear the sorry tears in their voice–described to me how they had seen my furry friend (I still had some flyers up, having been too lazy to take them down) earlier that day, but not seeing any tags or anything else, they had let him go. It was only at the moment of calling me that they had seen my flyer. I rushed home, frantic.
At that point, I had really had enough. Not to mention that I already felt as though I were walking the biggest walk of shame in the world for losing my dog not once, twice, or three times, but FOUR times. My conversation with God in the car went something like this:
“I’m so *expletive* fed up with this! I’m *expletive* done, done! I can’t *expletive* go through this again, I *expletive* CANNOT! You *expletive* KNOW how this *expletive* affected me the first *expletive* 3 times, why would you do this again, why?! If this is some kind of *expletive* lesson to teach me about *expletive* trusting you or something, it is just plain *expletive* MEAN! It’s *expletive* CRUEL!”
I’m definitely not proud of my outburst. But the last thing that I said in my rant made me stop–wait…was I accusing God of cruelty?
Suddenly I realized that this event couldn’t have been orchestrated by God as a “test.” He has never, not once, through all the testing, trials, and struggles, ever ever been cruel or mean to me. He has never done something that caused me a cruel overwhelming pain…yes, sometimes I experienced tragedies and heartbreaks that were painful and difficult, but never have I felt HIM to be DIRECTLY cruel in any of our interactions. Cruelty is not in His nature.
At the moment of realizing who my real adversary was, I heard God’s voice.
“Janet, Agee is safe, he’s home, I promise you.” He repeated this several more times. Though now calmer than before, I was still a bit sore, and so I immaturely retorted, “Yea, well that better be you and that promise better be a real one or else I just don’t know…I don’t know.”
Talk about drama queen. *smh*
I arrived home, and…there was Agee. Sitting there oblivious to my pain, dirt on his face and paws, with dirt tracked into the house, hungry from his adventures and panting happily. He returned the same way he had escaped. Agee was safe, he was home, just as God had promised me.
I sheepishly apologized to God, feeling really really really tiny. But, again…instead of anger and wrath, He sovereignly forgave me and told me, with tender sternness, that what the adversary intends for evil, He turns to good. And that perhaps through this, I can see that there is a real vulnerability in my heart, a fear of being in situations where either I myself or a creature/person I love has the potential to experience cruelty and violence at the hands of another human being. He revealed to me that in the depths of my heart lay a hidden fear of human cruelty. And though the adversary tried to exploit this fear, God in His love and mercy brought it to light so that he could heal me and free me from it.
At that moment, His love and care for me–for my dog–overwhelmed me. God had intervened. The cruel adversary, taking advantage of my vulnerability, wanted to cause me pain, anxiety, hysteria, sorrow. But God intervened. God, my Helper, my Protector, my Strong Tower. He sent his angels to bring my dog back home safely because He knew that my heart couldn’t endure even a few hours of not knowing the welfare of a creature under my care. A small thing like this–but there is no detail of our lives that is too insignificant for God’s notice and care.
Later in the week, and still a little sheepish from my very unladylike outburst, I was reading Psalm 142, written by David when he was in the cave running from Saul who wanted to kill him:
“With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him…I cry to you, O Lord…attend to my cry, for I am brought very low!”
David–the man after God’s own heart–poured out his complaints before the Lord as though he were pouring out an offering.
A lot of times I operate under a false assumption that it’s not okay to express my complaints to the Lord when I’m in legitimate pain. I think perhaps I mis-apply the lesson of the Israelites grumbling/complaining/mumbling in the wilderness, “Man, it was better in Egypt, God why’d you free us from slavery to make us suffer in this desert blah blah blah” to every situation in my life. But these are totally different situations.
Arrogantly complaining to God about the true good He’s given us and feeling sorry for ourselves is different from sharing our complaints, pains, distress, and craziness when there are things that are really hurting us. We’re afraid He’s going to shut us down for being honest and humble with Him. But when we come to Him in our brokenness and insanity, saying, “God I really can’t manage this, I’m on the edge here, you must intervene because you love me, I need your help! I’m yours, aren’t I?” it’s an expression of our trust in Him, of letting Him into every aspect of our lives; total openness and vulnerability with Him.
David knew God was his God. David knew God was for him. David knew where his help came from. David knew whom his life belonged to. David knew who was his master, his owner, his creator, his Father. And pouring out his complaints to God was a sincere admission of trust, of dependency, of a love relationship.
I’m not encouraging the use of expletives in our conversations with God. Nor am I encouraging random uncontrollable outbursts and total absolution from any responsibility to be empowered by His grace and Holy Spirit to wisely manage our emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and choices. That is definitely NOT my intent here.
What I am encouraging is honesty, humility, and a fearlessness to be ourselves with God, to share our entire being and heart with Him. Because there is no ugliness, craziness, hysteria, or pain that is too much for Jesus to swallow into His scars, touch with His blood, heal and free us from. There is no ugly too ugly for God, who loves us so much more than we could ever imagine, and who takes our ugly and gives us unspeakable beauty, joy, and life.
On a side note, I’m fully aware that I could have avoided all this drama in the first place if I had simply, using common sense, closed the back door to my condo and completely blocked off any possible exit from my tiny backyard (Agee slipped through my screen-less back door that I would usually leave open a crack for ventilation, and then he dug holes under the wooden fence to the outside world of adventures…even after I had set up roadblocks, he found his way around them). But, sometimes, we get busy and forget our common sense. Sometimes, we make mistakes. Sometimes, we just needed a bit of air. Sometimes, we leave back doors open. And sometimes, God still covers our dumb mistakes.
The freedom to be ourselves with God–mistakes, foolishness, craziness, loveliness, simplicity, childlikeness, immaturity, maturity, complicatedness and all–is a treasure that Jesus paid the price to give to us. Let’s enjoy this treasure, enjoy relationship with God, even when our lives gets rocky, difficult, and a little crazy. He’s our steady, our constant; our faithful and compassionate love.
You are safe with Him, you are home with Him, He promises you.