The yards around me are washed in the diluted ink of nighttime. It’s 12:20 AM.
I am standing outside the white lattice fence that marks my yard.
Technically speaking, I’m trespassing here, standing where my neighbors’ backyards touch toes.
Somewhere in this dark neighborhood, my dog is also trespassing. He jumped the fence, hunting a rabbit, I suspect, and is now speeding around as fast as his four paws will carry him with no regard for property lines, my husband who is biking around to get eyes on him, or me, standing in the dark, trespassing, and trying not to cry.
This is the second dog-related incident to happen inside of one week. The first incident was when, while we were on a walk, a dog charged out of his yard and latched his teeth into our pit bull’s side. The injury required two sedations and three vet visits and counting. And now this. We’ve lost our black hound in the black night and barring a miracle, we won’t get him back until God chooses to lead him home.
The vet once told me hounds were bred for endurance. They’re bred to wear things out.
And I am thoroughly worn out. And at this moment, after a week of consistently disrupted sleep as we care for our pit bull, and after over an hour of running around the neighborhood (sometimes literally) when I should’ve been in bed for that long, my faith is worn, too.
I am convicted that I’m not a fit dog owner. I don’t have what it takes. I don’t understand how so many people own these animals. I don’t understand how I’ve owned one or two dogs at all times for the last fifteen years.
As I pray that God would cause our hound to return or to be trapped by a fence that would enable us to catch him, I feel hopeless. I’m praying, but I’ve been praying desperately with little to show for it for some time now.
It’s still dark. I’m still completely out of control.
When God doesn’t seem to be answering, I call my mom. She doesn’t answer either. I call my brother. Though it’s after midnight, he jumps in his car and starts cruising the neighborhood and doling out a pep talk.
And then my husband finds our dog trapped in a yard with a fence. Just like I’d prayed would happen.
As we turn in for the night after one AM, I look back on the helpless, hopelessness I felt standing in the dark. The dog was only out for an hour and a half. I’m ashamed that I couldn’t have faith that God would work all things for good for at least that long.
I never really understood how the apostles couldn’t manage to stay awake when Jesus told them to in the garden. But I now see how quickly my drowsy faith closes its weary eyes and blocks out the very light they need.
My hound has endurance. My faith? Not nearly as much as I thought.
I eventually fall asleep. I don’t know it then, but the next day, while I’m walking both dogs, another dog will dodge his owner to approach us. Just like the one who bit our pit bull days earlier. I will keep it together through the dog’s circling, but as soon as the pressure is off, I’ll have trouble catching my breath. I’ll fight tears, though no harm was done.
I’ll walk on, a leash in each hand, more traumatized than the dog who is still healing from the bite. I’ll scan the street around myself, and I’ll know I’m not safe. This activity that I’ve done most days for years is dangerous. Contrary to what I’ve experienced in the past, I’ll know dogs sometimes just bite. Sometimes those minor tangles on the sidewalk are major tangles. And if my dog could be bit, I could be bitten, too.
My illusions of safety and control have been shaken. I’m now aware the world isn’t as good and safe as I thought, and my faith isn’t as strong as I thought.
But in the midst of my doubt and frustration that dark night, God was working the answer to my prayer.
My Savior tells me the hard truth lovingly: I have never been safe. I have never been in control.
He says it is good for me to be aware of this, but he doesn’t leave me with that knowledge only. He adds more truth. He reminds me I have always been fully protected from true harm, harm to my soul, by his everlasting, enduring love.
When my faith falters after just an hour and a half, his faithfulness remains sure.
While I was yet a sinner, Christ rescued me.
While I yet struggle, Christ continues to love me, to draw me deeper, to invite me to keep my eyes on him and not the waves. And when I fail, he grips my hand and pulls me back to himself.
When my prayers aren’t answered the way I want, he is still working the best for me, his daughter.
When something worse happens than a pet emergency, he is still on his throne. When tragedy strikes for real, Jesus still loves me.
At times, we are very aware of the darkness around us. We are trespassing here; this world is not our home. We have been here for hours, praying, and we don’t see the answer emerging through the shadows.
But we have the light of the world. We know him and are known by him. Our citizenship is in heaven, and Jesus Christ is faithful to bring to completion the good work he’s begun in us. And though we are not in control, he always is. The lives of those who have gone before us show us this.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NET)
Open the sleepy eyes of your faith. Run with endurance.
P.S. This post started as a 5 minute free write in honor of the 31 Days of 5 Minute Free Writes challenge hosted by Creative and Free this month. I didn’t start by using a prompt, and the five minutes ended at the first star, but as you can see, the story had a long way to go. Eventually, it reached the suggested prompt “aware.” For more info on the challenge and to see the linkup, click here. To see my other posts for this challenge, click here.
Another beautiful post, Emily! You've really challenged me again to take stock and see where my faith lacks endurance. Thank you!
Thank you for your words, Emily. They were needed by me. 🙂
You're so welcome, Tammy! I appreciate you stopping by!
Thanks, Jerusha! I'm glad it resonated!
I'm so sorry your pup flew the coop and got cooped up in the place you prayed for. Those dogs! This is really a haunting, beautiful post. You hooked me. Who hasn't lost something or some pet they truly love? You took me into the moment and I was scouring the neighborhood too. You're doing great with the challenge BTW.
The dogs certainly have been putting us through our paces lately. I never suspected God brought them into our lives to teach us so much! Glad the post resonated with you. I need to keep up the challenge more often–it's so good for me when I do!