Having dogs has been great prep for parenthood. For one thing, they routinely wake us up in the middle of the night due to potty breaks, thirst, hunger, sickness, or just needing a cuddle. Just yesterday, Samson consumed a bumblebee and proceeded to throw up all over the kitchen rug. I’m already used to dealing with poop and puke that isn’t my own, so I doubt diaper changes will do much to my gag reflex.
Dogs also take away a bit of your autonomy and flexibility. We can’t just whiz out of town at a moment’s notice because we always have to line up someone to care for them. Sometimes we spend more on the dog’s lodging than we do on our own. Even for long daytime events or excursions, we have to ask friends to come by and let them out for a potty break or take them for a walk around the block.
They are constantly on my mind and their needs are usually met before my own. Yes, I think having dogs is a good pre-cursor to having children, and I have no doubt that my relationships with Bailey and Samson will enhance my relationship with my son. In the same way, I think they’ve taught me a lot about my relationship with Christ.
I know that sounds silly to you non-dog owners out there, but bear with me. Bailey’s running away last week was really convicting in a lot of ways, mostly because her obnoxious disobedience reminded me of my own.
On her best day, Bailey is a great dog. She is affectionate and smart. She knows what I want and wants nothing in the world more than to please me. She looks to me for guidance and is sensitive to little cues that I give her. On these days, I have 100% confidence that I can let her off leash and she’ll choose my voice over any Scottish animal in the wilderness.
But on her worst day, she’s strong willed and stubbornly independent. She tests both her boundaries and mine. Her disobedience is hurtful and frustrating, especially since we’ve spent so much time and effort on training her.
We aren’t crazy-strict. We don’t need her right by our side. We’re ok with her being a dog and running wild, just as long as she stays within a certain perimeter and comes back as soon as we instruct her to. On most days, this arrangement works, but as I learned last week when she disappeared for 3 stinkin’ hours, sometimes it just doesn’t.
Sometimes I can’t trust her to make smart choices; to respond to my voice; to do what she’s told; to behave in a way that’s respectful of the freedom she’s been given. Sometimes she ignores all that she’s been taught and chooses to follow her own path. This behavior causes me stress and despair. It makes me feel helpless and hurt.
And it strains our relationship. For three days after her incident, Bailey tip-toed around me. She wouldn’t make eye contact. She was subdued and cautious. I didn’t ever scold her or spank her, which let me know from her behavior that she knew she had done something very bad in running off. She wasn’t oblivious. She didn’t get ‘lost’. She ran away. She made a choice.
The morning that she ran away, I had a sinking feeling that something like that would happen. I was anxious and stressed, but really wanted to get out and enjoy the morning with Jill and Angus, and I wanted Bailey to be with me. I decided to give it to God, and before we drove to meet Jill, I knelt beside Bailey and prayed over her. I prayed that God would watch over her. That God would prompt her to obey me. That God would always bring her back home.
For the first 20 minutes that she was lost, I stayed pretty calm because I knew that I had prayed this prayer for her. I knew that at any moment, we’d see her spastically running down the trail to catch up with us. Except, we never did.
The minutes turned into *HOURS* and I lost a bit of faith that I’d ever see her again. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would keep her safe and prompt her to either come to me or some other walker so that she could be found. Eventually that happened, but not before I almost lost my mind with grief and guilt and helplessness.
But the heart-wrenching experience gave me a glimpse of what the highs and lows of my walk with Christ must feel like to Him. On my best days, I’m constantly seeking Him first. I’m studying my bible; I’m trying hard to serve others and I’m working to nurture my fellowship with other Christians. I pray on every single decision I make. I’m constantly asking for guidance and I trust that my life is in God’s hands and that He won’t abandon me.
But on my worst days, I'm selfish. I'm ungrateful. I'm too busy to pray or to complete a daily devotional. I am anxious and worried and not trusting that I am under the supervision of a good and just God. I can't be bothered to listen when He calls my name or instructs me on which way to go. I keep wandering further and further off the path, following my own whims and self-indulgent concerns, until I find myself hopelessly lost.
Every time we move, I’m back to being diligent in my prayer life and bible study. Even though these are times of great turmoil, I’m usually pretty calm because I know I’m going where He wants me.
I struggled to get pregnant for nearly 3 years. As painful as it was, it must have been a sweet time for the Lord to feel me leaning on him daily. To feel the faith I had, and the unfailing trust that I felt that His will was being done, even if it wasn’t what I wanted. It must have been such a moment of joy for him when I saw that positive pregnancy test and fell to my knees in gratitude.
I felt so close to Him during that journey. I actively knew that I needed him. It’s become such a chunk of my personal testimony.
But then what? After 3 years of praying for healing, of praying for acceptance, of praying for guidance, I suddenly had what I wanted most. I don’t think I ever consciously thought: ‘I don’t need you as much anymore’ but subconsciously, I think my independent nature came out and I behaved in a way that said, “Thanks God; I’ll take it from here”.
I stopped being as diligent about prayer or bible study. I stopped being excited about attending church. Instead, I was consumed by my pregnancy. I struggled with morning sickness in my first trimester, which couldn’t be helped, and somewhere along the way I just fell out of the habit.
My training got lax and once I entered my 2nd trimester, I just had ‘more important’ things to think about. My thoughts became consumed with NHS prenatal care, jogging strollers, breast pumps, nursery furniture, the perfect name, etc. I could hear God trying to re-direct me. I felt a convicting knot in my stomach when I managed to find the time and energy to blog and exercise but yet when it came to my bible study, I would always choose napping over studying the word.
I slowly tuned out His voice and chose my own path, my own thoughts. I started struggling with anxiety about all the uncertainties that come with delivering and parenting a child, especially in a foreign culture. I was constantly sad and stressed and oh-so negative. I was wandering farther and farther from what I was trained to do (pray and focus on the word), and instead followed my fears and worries down a tumultuous path.
So even if I’m totally in over my head and completely out of my comfort zone, I know that He’s got me covered. He’s watching over me. He’s keeping me safe. He’s putting the right people in my life. He’s always going to bring me back home.
Amazing grace, indeed.