"When a soul recognises the will of God and shows a readiness to submit to it entirely, then God gives Himself to such a soul and renders it most powerful succour under all circumstances." - Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Thursday, September 17, 2015

That time my dog ran away and I was reminded of God's mercy

As much I love our house, the big downside is that we barely have a yard. Since we haven't figured out the best place to build a fence due to the layout, we have to hook our dog, Marley, to a tree with a chain. It's inconvenient, but it works. Usually.

This morning I walked outside to let her back in - but she wasn't there. My heart fell when I noticed that her chain was broken. My little crazy beagle was roaming around the neighborhood, with part of the chain hooked to her. And since she is a hound dog and would follow her nose to the ends of the earth, I knew she wasn't going to come back home anytime soon.

I was still in pajamas. So were the boys. I texted Logan the situation (he was at work), texted a few friends to say a quick prayer, and I swapped out my shorts, threw the boys in our massive double stroller, and took off down the road.

Logan had called our neighbors to help look for Marley, and another kind neighbor I passed got in his car to help look too, so we had a little search party going. Several people in the neighborhood told me they saw my dog pass but couldn't tell me where she went. Lovely.

For almost an hour this went on, me pushing the stroller in 80+ degree weather, looking for Marley as sweat rolled down my face. Logan would periodically call me to check in. Landon was loving the “excitement” and added to my anxiety with his nonstop chatter: “Mom, we looking for Marley? Where's Marley? Tracks! I see train tracks!”

The whole time I'm praying, asking Jesus to protect Marley. I asked St. Anthony and St. Francis of Assisi for prayers too. It was hard not to imagine the worse – would I find her on the side of the road, hit by a car or something? What would I do? How would I react? I know she's just a dog, but she was still a big part of our family. I did not want to lose her.

Logan finally called me to say Animal Control left him a message - they had picked her up and I could go get her at the shelter. (Thank goodness we have a phone number on her collar!) I was relieved that she was okay, but also annoyed at the fact that I wasted most of my morning looking for her. And now I'd have to load up the kids in the car to go pick her up. It was time for Chase's nap and Landon was begging for a snack, and I realized I'd have to shower now that I was all sweaty.

I picked up Marley and threatened her with a bath on the way home. YOU WILL GET A BATH, I fussed her. She hates bathes. But I didn't care, because she smelled and wasted my morning. I had a hard time reminding myself that I should be happy that she was still alive and well.

So that's when I started to think about what lesson could come out of this. I'm trying to see the good in everything, even the annoying things of life – like my dog running away. What was God trying to teach me?

Then suddenly the analogy came to me. Just like Marley ran away, we run away from God. My dog wasn't running away to spite me...she was just sniffing around and going wherever she smelled something interesting. And I think that's what we do sometimes. We don't think we're straying from God. Innocent gossip, skipping our morning prayer time, letting our minds wander during Mass. We don't think these things are “cutting the cord”, so to speak, regarding our relationship with God.

But just like Marley's chain that weakened and weakened because of her constant tugging, our rope can weaken too. Little by little, it can fray until POP. We just severed our relationship with God with a series of seemingly trivial sins. Sin is sin, like it or not.

Just like I had people help me look for Marley, though, God sends us people to help us on our journey, while He waits patiently for us to return to Him. That friend who subtly reminds you to focus on your blessings instead of your burdens. Your spouse who forgives you for being a jerk. Your pastor who is always a source of encouragement every Sunday.

The good news now is that Marley's broken chain has been replaced with a stronger one (thanks to our awesome neighbors). Hopefully there will come a day where we will build a fence – or move to a house with one – and she won't feel so constricted by the chain. Maybe one day she'll be content enough in a fenced area and won't feel the need to roam the town.

The same can be said for us. It's hard to live in such a worldly world sometimes. So many distractions and desires that pull us away from God. But thankfully, God is merciful. If our rope breaks, He ties it back in a knot, making it stronger than before.

But I suppose I don't want to rely on a rope to tie me to God. I'd much rather be fenced in, with a little freedom to run around. I really do want to be free from the tendency to sin. Maybe one day I can leave the rope behind, confident that I'll stay where God wants me, in union with Him.

I guess the big difference in this analogy is that God, thankfully, doesn't do what I do. Instead of welcoming Marley back home with open arms, thankful for her safe return, I grumbled about the fact that she wasted my morning and then I threatened her with a bath (which she hates). Yes, I was glad she was fine, but seriously, dog, did you really have to wander so far?? You could have been killed!

God's mercy is endless. So no matter what we do, no matter how far we stray, He's always waiting for us, loving us regardless. And when we finally return to Him, He embraces us. He doesn't dangle our broken rope over us, saying, Look what you did! How could you?! Thankfully, He loves us more than that.

So in the end, I guess you could say I'm a little glad my dog got loose. Hopefully next time I'll be more forgiving as I remember the depths of God's mercy.

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