It is 2:45 A.M. and our dog needs to go outside. She just went out four hours ago before we went to bed. But she is insisting that I wake up. Why does she always come to my side of the bed?
There were a lot of dogs at the animal shelter that December day almost 11 years ago. All sizes and breeds. One beige and white border collie caught our eye. She was a pretty dog and seemed to have a calm demeanor. Looked like the perfect pet. We learned that she was about a year old and had been found tied to a tree in a wooded area of southwest Atlanta.
We named our new dog Addie since it was the first Sunday in Advent when we signed the papers and took her home. It turned out that she was not so calm (she must have been sedated) but with age her energy has subsided a little. She is a gentle dog with a sweet personality.
Addie is terrified of bad weather. The science and technology of the National Weather Service has nothing on her. The severe weather alerts on The Weather Channel are old news by the time they air. She becomes restless and begins to pace and pant long before my human senses are aware of the changing weather conditions. That is what was happening last night as she pawed at my bedside.
There is not a lot you can do to help Addie when she gets that way. She wants to be petted and would like to get in your lap, but at forty-five pounds she is not a lap dog. I guess in her mind the "danger" is wherever she is, so she wants to go somewhere else. You don't get very far trying to explain to a dog that going to another room will not provide escape from this weather condition.
We have tried every method that we know to relieve Addie's anxiety and to help us. All of the diversionary tactics and medications have provided no remedy. Loving attention does not calm her. She is scared and does not understand. I feel sorry for her so we just "ride out the storm" together. However, I must admit that it can be very irritating--especially in the middle of the night.
As I sat with Addie last night (this morning) I stroked her back and scratched her behind the ears. I spoke softly and reassured her that it was alright. That she was not really in danger. That it would get better. But no matter what I said or did, her anxiety remained. Periodically my irritation would become obvious. When this crisis was over she could lay around all day and rest but I was exhausted and needed my sleep.
At one point during our early morning vigil it occurred to me that this kind of scene was probably repeated often with God and me. There are times when I do not understand or agree with circumstances and I get fretful and fearful. My restlessness and anxiety are so real but God comes along side and tries to reassure and calm me. I wonder if God gets irritated with me when I am fearful or agitated and don't accept the comfort and reassurance that is offered? When God speaks peace to me, why do I reject it? Why are my circumstances more convincing than the reality of God's Presence?
I suspect that I am a lot like Addie, but I am certain that God is not like me. No matter how many times I have to be reminded that I am in God's hands and that God's love and grace is extended to me, I believe that God continues to patiently encourage me and love me. Regardless of the circumstances or my disposition, God is with me and for me.
"With God on our side like this, how can we lose? ... Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not back stabbing ... I'm absolutely convinced that nothing--nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable--absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." (Romans 8:31-39, The Message)
I believe it. I am trying to practice it.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," July 19, 2010. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]