"What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray,"--Jesus, Matthew 18:12-13
This is me and Aravis, at a much skinnier time in both our lives. :)
When we got there, I lifted her out of the car and as I carried her up to the vet's office, she panicked, flipped out of arms, and took off with her leash still attached! She ran directly into oncoming traffic. A truck almost hit her, but swerved at the last second. She ran across the street, through a parking lot, down a long, STEEP, ravine and disappeared into the field of high grass. Only more busy roads surrounded the field. She was gone.
Those of you who know me already know at this point that I was devastated. We have ten dogs (two inside dogs and eight outside dogs) and we love them like people. My husband and I often say that dogs are God's best creation. I drove around in circles for hours calling her name, crying, hitting my steering wheel, and dropping a few expletives. I did not spot her once. I went home defeated, convinced I'd never find her again alive. My worst fear was finding her hit on the side of the road.
I woke up this morning to VIOLENT thunder and lightening. All I could think about was my poor, scared, wounded dog trying to fend for herself out there with no way to come home. As soon as the storm let up, I started driving around again. My voice was hoarse from calling her name.
As I was driving, I started to get really angry. These kind of things tend to happen to me A LOT, so much so that I've started to expect the worst in these kind of situations. After hours of searching, I was "talking" to God, okay, yelling at God, recounting all the worry, anxiety, desperation, and fervor of the past twenty-four hours, expressing how the thought of giving up or finding her dead was almost unbearable. The prayer was laced with a "it's not fair," attitude. In the middle of my rant, within in the deepest part of me, I felt God say, "Imagine how I've searched for you." Ouch. I nearly drove off the road. I pulled over and just wept over my steering wheel. How many times have I wandered off? I realized that I am a lot like my dog. She really loves us, but is ruled by fear. She's always cowering until she's sure she's not in trouble. She kind of expects the worst. Sound familiar? I started thinking about the mind-blowing notion of God searching for me and still searching for all of me. Just then, I heard a faint yelp. I got out of my car and yelled for Aravis. I did this for a half hour before finally giving up. I got back in my car and started to turn around. Just before driving off, I saw her standing in the middle of a field about a quarter of a mile away. I jumped out of my car and called her to come. She stood there looking at me for a moment. I couldn't believe it! I thanked God over and over again out loud. But then Aravis ran off again and I imeediately switched to dropping the F-bomb in frustration. Thanking God in one breath, dropping the F-bomb in the other....OY.
Anyway, I had to run after her through a FLOODED field. I got mud up to my knees and she was no where in sight... again. I finally heard some rustling in the thicket and she poked her head out. I called her in my nicest voice, since I knew she wanted to come to me, but was also scared (another familiar spiritual problem). It didn't matter. No matter how nice sounding my voice was, she wouldn't come close enough. Finally, I decided to lay prostrate on the ground, in the mud (Dog people know that this is a way to communicate a non-threatening demeanor). So I laid there for a few moments and she cautiously circled around me, and finally collapsed on top of me, digging her head into me, shaking and wimpering.
As I sat there hugging my wet, muddy, wounded, fearful, nutbag of a dog, I realized how happy I was to have found her. I wasn't angry with her, I felt compassion for her. I didn't care that I was covered in mud from head to toe or how filthy she was, I just wanted to take care of her. And I wondered if this is how God feels when we finally surrender and come close enough to Him to be found? I wondered how often God is searching for me and I don't even know it? I wondered how often God is reaching out to me and I'm too wrapped up in my own baggage and fear to realize it? There are parts of myself that still cower and run from God's extended embrace because of fear. But today the reality of how far God goes to find us, how far He was willing to wade through the muck and mire of human filthiness, just came to life. The parable of the lost sheep came alive through my own parable of my lost dog.