Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Sting

I like animals.
I like sameness.

A few weeks ago, God decided to change things up for me and I got mad.

Three weeks ago yesterday, my beloved Neo, my big black dog, my daily walking companion, was hit by a car.  And he died.  I was so very sad.  And I cried nearly non-stop for three days because I wanted him back.  I didn’t want ANOTHER dog; I wanted THAT dog.  I wanted Neo. 

Let me back up a bit.  This summer was hard for me.  Truth be told, the last few years have been hard for me.  This whole “letting them go” part of parenting is no cakewalk; every two years, one of my clan becomes a “grown-up” and moves out.  And I put away another plate, and try to remember to buy less groceries, and post more pictures of my pets on Instagram. I guess I should have expected this.  I guess I should be pleased since it actually was the goal, but I have resisted because it means this era is coming to a close.  I want to stop time, or at least stall it a little, but I guess things don’t really work like that.  Bummer.

Neo wasn’t always my buddy.  We actually got much closer this February, when my boy decided to get married. And this summer, as my girls hiked the AT and were gone from May to August. And then again, the entire month of July when my hubby joined them on the trail. And when my baby, the only one home with me, thought he could work full time every day of summer break. And when I was alone on my birthday (insert funeral dirge here). In all these times of adjustment, Neo had been my constant; he was always glad to see me, greeting my car every time I drove in the driveway and giving me sloppy kisses that I didn’t like.  This summer Neo and I watched the corn grow together.  And I did like that.

Neo predictably slept on the front porch every night, predictably protected me from the UPS man, and predictably chased anything he thought he might be able to catch when we took our walks together. Did I mention that I also like predictability?

During these same three weeks of grief, I have been teaching a Bible study about the Character of God.  The first week, the morning of Neo’s death, I stood confidently in front of about 200 women and told them, “Sometimes life stings; and when it does, you need to believe that God is the same God as when you are nearest to Him.”  I truly thought that I believed these words that I was saying.

That same day—the day I talked about being stung by life—Neo left me.  Just like that.  He wasn’t supposed to leave.  I was devastated.

I immediately told God that He was wrong in allowing Neo to die. I told Him He had no right in taking my friend. I told Him I didn’t think He was good. This God—the God I spoke to in my rage—was NOT the same God I knew in my sweet and predictable times.  This God who took my Neo didn’t have my best in mind.

Or so, in my desperation, I thought.

But here’s what’s true. And it’s not what I felt.

My feelings were so mixed up inside of me that I had allowed the death of my dog to damage my faith in God’s characterHis omniscience, His wisdom, His faithfulness, His goodness.  My emotions, motivated by shock and grief, persuaded me to believe what I FELT to be true rather that what ACTUALLY was true.  I chose to do exactly opposite of what I had, just that morning, told the women to do.  I realized that I had been putting my security in my dog and my routine and not in the Eternal God (Who, in fact, does stay the same and has promised never to leave).  I had mistakenly, again, put my trust in created things rather than in the Creator. 

When I finally ceased telling God all of the things He had done wrong, I heard him speak softly through a quote I had copied from “My Utmost for His Highest” earlier this summer (during the time I had tried to trust in cell phones and photos and satellite trackers instead of God Himself…you can read about that here)—It said,

“There is a connection between the providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in light of our knowledge of God.  Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest facts of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.” 

It was then that I realized who the wrong one was…and it was me.  It was my feelings.  It was my disbelief.  I had come face to face with something I couldn’t change, and instead of believing what I had learned to be true of God, I trusted in my finite understanding of reality.  I had allowed my pain to damage my view of God’s majesty and goodness; I was surprised at my fickleness.  Maybe that’s why God provides so many stories in the Bible about the forgetful Israelites.  Maybe I am supposed to see myself in them. 

So, now that I realize how very weak I am, how prone I am to fail in my view of my Savior, where do I go?  I go straight to Him. And He takes me in.  He runs to greet me in my folly and my struggle and my forgetfulness because He is right.  He is gracious.  He is fully in control of everything. He is good even when I FEEL bad.  He is TRUTH. 

As I grow in my knowledge of the Holy, I hope this circle of shock, anger, disbelief, struggle, and then once again, belief in the Truth, gets smaller and smaller and smaller, so that I may immediately recall His goodness instead of instantly suspecting deceit.  I pray my mind will be so overcome by His majesty that I can’t help but say, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord”.   

May His name be praised.  Forever and ever.

Long ago You established the earth,
and the heavens are the work of Your hands.
 They will perish, but You will endure;
all of them will wear out like clothing.
You will change them like a garment,
and they will pass away.
 But You are the same,
and Your years will never end.
Psalm 102:25-27

In sweet memory of a sweet dog.  Missing you Neo!