Tennessee River Bridge 5.30.17
"What brings us to tears, will lead us to grace. Our pain is never wasted." Bob Goff
Our dog went missing last weekend and I'd be remiss not to write about the trauma we endured from that experience, or the lessons embedded within it.
We'd searched until after midnight that first night and with storms coming in, we had to make the difficult decision to stop looking for her for the night. We were in the another part of the state, she had gone missing from my sister's house and we were staying in a hotel thirty minutes away. After hours of searching and crying and praying, we made the drive back to the hotel. Through tears, voice cracking, Parker whispered, "Why didn't God answer our prayers?"
I feigned strength as I told him what I knew to be true about God, which is that He doesn't always answer our prayers in the way we'd like for Him to or in the time frame we want Him to, but that He is faithful. Sometimes, it can feel like He doesn't hear us at all, but God doesn't promise us a life free from pain or loss, but He promises His presence and His comfort in the midst of it.
The storms rolled in and I couldn't sleep at all that night. All I could think about was that our dog was somewhere out there in the storm, the memory of Parker's voice calling her name through sobs, and my daughter, sleeping soundly in another hotel room with her cousin, safe from the knowing, for now anyway. Parker was asleep next to me, having cried himself to sleep. We've had Cookie since he was three. "I don't remember life without her", he'd said. Chloe was five years old the year that she woke up on Christmas morning and found a puppy under the tree, and while I do, admittedly, love the dog - Cookie is a part of her heart in a way that I can't fully understand. I never had a pet for that length of time as a child and if I'm honest, until I had children, I also never attached to anything or anyone so deeply that I felt I couldn't live without them.
Life wouldn't be the same for them if we lost her so tragically and suddenly. I lay awake thinking of how I would even begin to tell her, how I would help them grieve, how I would grieve for them grieving, and how would I help them let go and heal without any closure... especially when I'd never learned myself.
As soon as morning came, I drove back to look for her again, the prodigal dog. I just prayed that she'd eventually make her way back to the last place she saw us - and I did blatantly ask God to spare my children's hearts from this kind of loss at this time in their lives.
Driving back alone, the sky was still gray and ominous, trees were down and there were no other cars on the road. When I exited the interstate towards my sister's house, trees were down, limbs and debris were covering the roadways. I drove slowly up and down the main highway, along neighborhood streets, back alleys, and parks - desperately searching.
Won't He leave the ninety-nine to go after the one? (Luke 15)
I was a mother desperately trying to spare her children from heartache, but at the same time, I thought of all the times God has come after me in much the same way. Our dog had never gone missing before, but I have been - I am - the perpetual runaway.
And He is One who loves despite. Despite our sin, our waywardness, our piety, our efforts, our failures, despite everything. Hear me, erry.thing. God across the span of thousands of years has relentlessly pursued the stubborn in every imaginable way. When all else failed, He appeared in the flesh to knock on their doors, to sleep in their gardens, to eat at their tables, to call them back to Him.
God will not let them go.
Or us. Even when we want Him to. Even when we run.
I found Cookie that morning. She was soaking wet and filthy and shaking. She was, in fact, making her way back towards the last place we saw each other. And just like the parable of the prodigal, in that moment, it didn't matter to me where she'd been, why she'd ran away. She ran towards me and I ran towards her. And I don't have words for the relief.
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one.
Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness
and go after the lost one until you found it?
When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders,
rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors,
saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’
Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life
than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue."
Luke 15:4-7 (MSG)