Lessons from the Sickbed of a Dog

I have been at home for the last day and a half with a very sick pup– she had emergency surgery to remove a nut (a nut!) that was stuck in her stomach yesterday, and let me just say this: I have seen more dog vomit in the last four days than I ever care to see in my life.

Anyhow, I’ve had a lot of time to read and reflect in between prying her sharp little teeth open to shove pills down her throat!  I’m still plowing through Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain— I mean, honestly, how can one man have 444 pages of things to say about his life? I could probably fill about 150 and then run out of anything interesting to say at all (and that’s assuming that the first 150 pages would be interesting!).

Anyhow x2, I’ve been pondering this thing he said…. He decided God was calling him to join the Franciscans as a friar (monk), and then there came a time when God said to him, “No, that is not your calling.”  Merton goes into great detail about his sorrow, his lostness– his sense of being adrift, bereft, homeless.  And then he says, in this clear, strong, decisive voice:

If I could not live in the monastery, I should try to live in the world as if I were a monk in a monastery… I was going to get as close as possible to the life I was not allowed to lead….

There could be no more question of living just like everybody else in the world. There could be no more compromises with the life that tried, at every turn, to feed me poison. I had to turn my back on those things.

What would you do if God told you that you were not allowed to serve God in the way you thought you were called to?

What would you do if your foreseeable future (as though there truly was such a thing) was ripped out from under your feet? Perhaps you have experienced this before.

Once, in college, I set out to study abroad in Madrid for a month or so.  I made it to the airport, bags and passport all ready, my family there to say good-bye. I was excited– and more than that, I was so prideful: I was going to Europe. I was to be the first in my family to study abroad. And when the flight was cancelled, and the next one wasn’t for a couple of days, I was devastated.  I was humiliated.  I will never forget the profound, irrational embarrassment that I felt, going home and unpacking my suitcases. I will never forget the sense of intense disappointment and emptiness of those intervening 48-or-so hours, hours I hadn’t planned to spend stateside.  Hours I hadn’t planned to spend feeling so awful.

I think a lot of Naomi in situations like that one. You know, the one from the Bible, in the book of Ruth. Her husband dead. Her sons dead. Her tag-along, foreign daughter-in-law trailing behind her professing undying faithfulness.  She ambled back to the “promised land” and she was bitter. The promise seemed to have run out for her and her family. She had never planned to be a widow, to have no children, to be back here in this state. She had never planned to spend the rest of her life feeling so awful. And yet, God was with her.

There are a few things I think we can learn from Naomi and Thomas:

1. If you’re feeling something, declare it. Emotions are a part of God’s plan; God cares about your heart and everything that’s building up in it and running out of it.  Naomi says, “Call me Bitter, for the LORD has turned away from me.” Thomas says, “The whole thing was so hopeless that finally, in spite of myself, I began to choke and sob and I couldn’t talk anymore.”

2. Never lose faith in the God who is still with you, even when the words from God’s mouth are not what you want to hear. Naomi went back to the land of Israel, the place where she knew God to be found, the place where she had heard that God’s hand was at work, saving the people– the same God who seemed to have utterly abandoned her. Thomas decided to devote his life to the God who had denied him what he thought was his heart’s desire.

Do you have that kind of faith? I don’t know if I do.

3. Continue serving God. Naomi aided her daughter-in-law in finding a husband, thus accomplishing another step in the divine plan for the lineage of David.  Thomas resolved to continue serving God with all of his life, even if he could not be what, or where, he thought he was called to be.

Friends, keep faith and keep serving.  God is present, even if your life isn’t going the way you thought it would.  I thought I’d be at work right now, but instead I’m nursing a sick pup back to health.  And God is working in me just as well, either way.

It’s all grace! Praise, praise.