We were a mere 24 hours into our trip before the text came in.
…..and then the phone calls one after the other, after the other.
Having left my phone at home to charge, I’d missed ever last one of them.
I was two hours too late.
I called him back. “What do you mean he’s gone?! What happened?”
“We were out walking and things were going great! He was off leash for over an hour and then suddenly, he took off… And he was gone.
He ran across the highway and before I could do anything he disappeared. I have no idea where he is! I’m so sorry!”
We had left our city dwelling labradooddle with extended family and while they loved dogs dearly, he didn’t know them too well.
I had told myself countless times he’d be fine, but to be quite honest, I had my suspicions.
Our dog Guinness was abused and neglected as a pup, and when we got him, his behaviour was nothing short of timid, skittish and afraid. It took us months to get him to come out from behind our feet and even longer to mingle with other people or dogs. But with persistence and a patience love, Guinness transformed into the worlds best dog.
He was so loyal and well behaved and never did he need a leash. I could leave him outside a store to roam while I picked up groceries. The idea of running away did not allure him because he’d found home and a love he could trust.
That is until we dropped him off, reminiscent of the times before he’s been neglected and given up by former owners. He knew he was far from home, that we were gone and and he didn’t recognize his new caretakers. And he spooked.
Not knowing the whole story- that we were only gone a few days and would return to pick him up- he got scared and ran for his life. Except that where he ran was so much worse.
… onto the highway, into the mountains and far off the beaten path! He was out of our will and so far from our plans for him- our plans to protect him and to love him; plans for his good!
Hours later in the pitch black some family picked him. He was just sitting there exhausted, they said, on the side of the highway, like he’d given up hope all together.
“If we hadn’t stopped, he would never have made it through the night! It’s bear and cougar country on that mountain pass!”
A cuddly, scared, suburban pup; certainly he wouldn’t have made it home… If it wasn’t for that family!
In his love and mercy, God gave Guinness [our dog] a way out of his own foolishness, and led him back to the safety of our arms. But it wasn’t without a long detour- a 6 hour car ride and an overnight stay in a land and with people he didn’t know; all the while, leashed and restrained – something he wasn’t used to even on his worse days!
And while I sat there shaking my head, I couldn’t help but think of myself; that I too- perhaps you- have done the very same thing, time and again.
While I know God loves me and he’ll never forsake me, I don’t always trust his plan. Because let’s be honest, a lot of the time, I can’t quite figure it out!
In my limited understanding, my fear and my discomfort, I spook and run…. to anywhere but here!
….running in an attempt to take back “control” of my life.
Like Guinness, when I run from the centre of Gods will, I run head on into the wilderness ; to territory that’s far more dangerous and unknown then where I was!
And yet, the same way God rescued Guinness, our Father rescues us.
Ever faithful in his pursuit of bringing us home, he relentlessly chases after us regardless of where we’ve run. And sure, it’s not alway painless coming home – coming back to the centre of God will and his path for us – and it may require we take the long way home and spend some time in places were uncomfortable…
But eventually we’ll get back.
The same way we were coming for Guinness but our return took shy of 12 hours, so too does our walk with God require us to be patient and to trust that he’s working to get us- to save us, to heal us, to change us and our circumstances- even when we can’t see it or feel it.
Because regardless of the effort and inconvenience we’ve caused God, in spite of our naivety and our tendency to wander, he always welcomes us home with open arms and a grateful heart…. the same way we welcomed Guinness home.
He does not look at us disapprovingly, shaming us for our behaviour. He does not question how, after all this time and after all the ways He’s loved us, we’d could still doubt him. He does not get angry at us out of sheer frustration of the inconveniences we’ve caused him. And He doesn’t give up on us, leaving us to fend for ourselves with the bears.
He cradles us in his arms and rocks us like a baby, for as long as it takes for us to trust again, knowing in our heart that we are indeed safe and loved, unconditionally.