Puppies and Disappointment

February 17, 2014

This post will start out seeming very superfluous. I hope it doesn’t end that way. Let’s find out…

This weekend, we had a puppy for a total of 18 hours.

After weeks of research and phone calls, of driving miles and miles to meet a breeder and then the puppies and then pick up our puppy. She was small and wiggly and cute and full of the stuff of puppy-life that makes so many of us smile and laugh in glee. When our son was born, he was born with allergies. Which is unusual. Typically allergies begin after birth. Some even go away over time. Not our son. This means of course, he has a hyper immune system of some sort and so it was only a matter of time before he was diagnosed with allergies to cats… and we had 2.

The cats were old and sick and eventually died and we went about getting cat dander out of the house. But then came the recommendation that our son’s speech delay could be helped by a pet dog. And since he tested negative to dog allergies, it seems possible.

We are learning to trust that open doors in our lives mean something even if they don’t turn into anything. Rather than endlessly fretting over whether we ought to step through opportunities when they appear, we have chosen to live as though they are gifts, without knowing their meaning. So when the puppy door opened after weeks of careful research and planning, we gladly stepped through. The breeder was responsible. The dog lineage was sound. We seemed to fit, despite how overwhelming a baby dog can be.

And then she licked our son. And he broke out in hives. And she was headed back to the breeder the next morning. Fortunately the breeder was kind and understanding and compassionate. Some may not have been.

This seems like just another silly, “life happens” kind of story. And it should be. Except that it has bothered me all day.

Perhaps I am exhausted from a work trip this weekend that included a lot of educating and driving. Perhaps I am tired from a long night with a puppy who wanted to be let out every 2 hours and a 3 year old who seems to enjoy waking at 3 am each morning. I’m not sure all that went into my sense of “bother” today, but I noted it’s intensity. All. Day. Long.

And finally I landed here: despite our commitment to walk through any opportunity that is offered us, trusting that God will move our path the direction it needs to go, it is incredibly frustrating for me to do just that and have it not “work out.” I’m left saying, “But we did everything right and it didn’t turn out!” And this puppy is not the first time, I’ve experienced that frustration.

It was there when we took the leap into wanting a family after agonizing prayer over whether we should. When we got married, we hadn’t sensed a call to parenting. And then like a leak that gets louder over time, we began to hear it, slowly emerging into our lives. But we knew, we knew, that if we started down that road there was no going back. We would open the door to a desire for children in our family that would not be easily cut off. And so we carefully explored it, begging God for a word that this was his plan for our marriage and family. We eventually sensed this was God’s blessing for us and then plunged into a nightmare and in the dark of that confusing time, it came, “We did everything right and it didn’t turn out!”

It’s been there with my son’s recent illness with the holes being ripped in his gut due to bacteria. From before he was born, we have been careful. We have carefully eaten in the healthiest ways we can. We followed particular parenting strategies with a long-view in mind- “planting sequoias” we could remind ourselves on the long nights with a baby, using writer Wendell Berry as our solace in those moments of exhaustion. We have been cautious with medications. We have tried to be naturally active. And our son still got sick. Badly. From a flukey things. He still ended up with this crazy immune system that breaks out in hives from a lick of a puppy tongue. And it’s there, “We did everything right and it didn’t turn out!”

It’s been there in ministry, and in times when I haven’t been active in ministry. It’s been there in so many ways, this frustration, this rumbling, this cry, “We have done everything right and it hasn’t turned out! We have tried to love God, we have strived to live in the footsteps of Jesus, we have wanted to honor God with our lives. We have given when no one else was giving. We have stood fast when others have run away. We are gone to places of ministry that others wouldn’t touch. We have sacrificed, and worked hard, and tolerated behaviors, and… and… and…” And it didn’t work. It didn’t turn out.

I’ve learned that there are many more people that us who have said that very thing. Felt it. Known it.

What do we do with this sense of injustice? What do we do with a Bible that says that God blesses our obedience, but also says that God gives grace to both the right and the wrong? What do we do when honest attempts at faithful obedience yields nothing?

And the answer is, I don’t know.

But then I have to remember this. This post about trust versus clarity. This post that still makes me itch uncomfortably even as it settles into my heart because I know it’s true. God never calls us to be successful. He calls us to be faithful. To be obedient. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it doesn’t work out.

Because in the end, if we are indeed living into the trust we want to have, then we have let go of the need to see the big picture. And to leave the big picture in God’s sight alone. That’s not easy. It rarely is.

I don’t get why things don’t happen when they seemed to be ordained to happen. I do get the disappointment when they don’t work out- no matter how small or big. But I’m learning still to trust. To let go of disappointment and trust that while it didn’t go my way, it went the way God may have chosen. And if he wants something to grow out of the disappointment, he will cause that to bloom.

Clarity versus trust. No one said it would be easy.

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