For Ridley, it’s been more than a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day. It’s been that kind of week.
For starters, he had to move away from his home in Fayetteville – the one with the screened in porch where he could nap in the sun, and the front porch where he could watch for kids on their skateboards. I don’t think he quite understands yet what’s going on. He arrived to a new house, and out of the nine nights he has been here, a thunderstorm and/or fireworks have driven him to panic just about every night. Two pit bulls in the yard behind him jumped the fence one day and, whether in play or in aggression, cornered him against the back doors. They haven’t been back since, but every time he goes out into the yard, they menacingly bark at him, taunting him I’m sure.
Last night was bad. Thunder started around 3 a.m., and he just couldn’t seem to find a safe place. He fidgeted constantly under the bed, so we put him in our bathroom. He scratched at the door, so we put him in the guest bathroom. He tried jumping into the clawfoot tub, but I guess couldn’t get in, so he knocked things off the sink counter and made so much racket that I couldn’t take it any more. He has a rug in the hall that he loves, so I tried just letting him roam the house in hopes that he would settle on his rug, but he scratched and jumped at the door so much that by 5 a.m., I just got out of bed to sit with him. I wasn’t getting any sleep anyway – the owner of the pit bulls leaves the dogs in the yard even in storms, so one of them was (understandably) whining and barking.
I got out of bed, started brewing some coffee, lit a candle, and settled into the couch, assuming that Ridley would snuggle at my feet and sleep while I spent some time journaling.
No such luck.
All he wanted was to go back into the bedroom and wake up Eric. Never mind that Eric can’t stop the thunder and the rain; Ridley simply wanted to paw at him and pant in his face. So I tried everything I could think of to keep Ridley away so that at least one of us would get some sleep.
I fed Ridley breakfast, one of his favorite parts of the day (dinner being the other). He ate quickly then went back to scratching at the bedroom door.
I put kitchen chairs in front of the door so that he couldn’t scratch. He wedged himself under the chairs, finally scooting them aside.
I blocked him in the living room with me by closing the French doors to the dining room then scooting the armchair into the hallway opening. First he slipped past the chair, so I pushed it back in further till it was too wedged to move. Then he climbed on top of me (sitting in the chair) and attempted to jump over the back of the chair into the hallway.
Finally, I grabbed my mug of coffee and just sat in front of the bedroom door, knees to my chest, physically blocking his paws.
It’s been an hour, and I am still sitting here. In the past ten minutes, the storm has quieted. The sun is starting to come up. And Ridley has finally laid his head down in my lap to rest, his breathing still quick but not as anxious.
Throughout the storm, I tried to explain to him so many times that he just needed to wait it out – storms have an expiration date. They don’t last forever. We were protected and safe in the house, but there was nothing Eric nor I could do to make it stop. He’s been through so many storms before, and I tried to remind him that he had always been fine in the past. But of course, his sweet dog brain can’t understand what I am saying. Even if he could have, he was too panic-stricken to slow down and listen to my voice. He didn’t seem to understand that I got out of bed super early just to sit with him; he kept rejecting my attempts to soothe and cuddle him.
As I was sitting here, I confess that I was having my own little freak out with the Lord.
I am excited to be in Conway, and I am excited for what the future holds, but, to be honest, it hasn’t been an easy week, even beyond the lack of sleep most nights.
We moved into the sweet old house we were planning to buy, but hit a snag in the process and are no longer able to buy it. The sellers have been gracious to us, and they are allowing us to rent it while we look for another house (and while they look for another buyer). However, I am ready to start making Conway home. And having half of my life in boxes sure doesn’t help. I woke up this morning so frustrated with the Lord – frustrated that this house situation worked out the way it has. Frustrated that we haven’t seen anything else on the market that we are interested in. Frustrated that the market is so different down here, much slower and with fewer choices. Frustrated that Ridley has been daily anxious in this house. Frustrated that the pit bull behind us has been barking almost every night.
So I sat in the hall against the door frame, my butt growing numb against the hardwood floor, knees to chest to balance coffee in one hand, free arm trying to corral Ridley, and tears streaming down my face.
I told the Lord I was so over it, that I couldn’t understand why He had pulled me away from an incredible community and a dream job and an awesome house in exchange for this. I told Him I was upset. I told Him, while I know He doesn’t owe me, that surely He would reward me for all I had given up.
And suddenly, He showed up. And, as it goes when He reveals truth to your heart, I felt like a child being both scolded and comforted at the same time.
Just as Ridley was anxiously pawing at the bedroom door, I was pawing at the Lord. I was freaking out at the storm raging outside, and all I wanted was a new house in hopes that everything would be better. I wasn’t appreciating His presence as He tried to comfort me. My only lens for relief was short-sighted, and I was panicking without regard to reason or to truth.
That’s the way it normally goes when we encounter storms, isn’t it?
The thunder rolls in to warn of what’s coming. The rain starts to beat on the roof, and even though we are protected and dry thanks to our security in Christ and our hope in His power, we think the world is ending. Irrationally, we begin clawing at anything and everything. Even when God attempts to hold us close in comfort, we start clawing at Him.
Too often we pray for peace, we pray for rest, but we reject it when the Lord provides it. We assume that peace means resolution, that everything is okay. Often, though, peace has nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our heart.
God came down in flesh as Jesus to sit on the hardwood floor with us, to be that peace for us, even though He didn’t have to. He suffered more than the numbness and soreness I will feel when I am able to get back up. I am sure He would rather have stayed in heaven’s perfection (just as I would rather have been snuggled under the covers to enjoy the rain). Yet, because of His love for us, He experienced life as a man so that He could provide peace for us with God once for all.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
He didn’t come so that we would never experience hardship again. He came so that, as we walk through the storms that are sure to come (both as a result of a broken world and as a tool for our growth), we could experience a relationship with Him to carry us through the storms and ultimately make His Name great.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid… I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 14:27, 16:33)
So as I still sit here on the floor, Ridley’s head nestled in that little space behind my back, I, too, will slow my breathing, stop my clawing, rest my spirit in my God as I wait out the storm.
I’m thankful He’s more patient with me than I have been with Ridley, and I’m thankful that He is able to calm the storm – but He is also able to let the storm rage and calm me as we wait through it together.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:19-20)
I’m praying that the truth of His love and peace invades your own storms and that you are also able to wait it out, finding that His presence is enough.