At the heart of every trial, every emotional upheaval, every tribulation, faith sits facing personal weaknesses. Words and actions and reactions whirl around like a violent tornado undaunted by human attempts for solutions. But God, the Creator, can still the storm with a simple “peace, be still.”
Okay. We’ve heard this before and have probably sang the children’s song,With Jesus in My Boat I Can Smile at the Storm. But for me, the meaning deepened through a series of almost humorous but very stressful trials.
This summer we got a puppy after our wonderful dog, Bizmark was put to sleep for an unfortunate mishap.
Before we went “dog shopping” at the local humane societies, I made a very clear statement to my children that we would not be getting a puppy, because a puppy is too much work. I knew exactly what I wanted . . . another Bizmark.
But two little rottweiler puppies about 8 weeks old huddled together in a cold cell while large vicious animals barked around them and humans made all sorts of strange noises at them. The puppies big brown eyes looked up at us. Their little tails swished back and forth, and they sang a song of misery with their little puppy voices.
Later that day, I received a call to come and pick which puppy we would take. My daughter had her eye on one, and I had my eye on the other. She got her way despite my better judgment. The most rambunctious of the two rode home in the van with us and gained the name Jasmine, or Jazz for short (which suits her far better).
Weeks followed with me stressed out and ready to turn myself into an insane asylum. “I didn’t want this dog!” would be followed with a flood of tears as I worked to clean up the disasters Jasmine produced. Sleepless nights for the hollowing and several middle of the night potty breaks . . . I felt like I adopted a baby.
. . . until I’d reached the end of my coping ability and slumped down before God begging Him to take me home to Heaven since I was no longer capable of handling things on earth.
Then I knew Jasmine’s life purpose.
She would forever be a meter measuring my boiling point and a spiritual stretching machine to lengthen my character and faith muscles. Oy.
For once in my life I came face to face with something I could not control, no matter how hard I tried. I’ve stopped a running horse by bulldogging its muzzle. I’ve knocked two attacking great danes down to the ground Arnold Schwarzenegger’s style (see the movie, True Lies). I’ve rounded up stampeding horses while riding bareback and cracking a lunge whip, but I could not keep this little 15 lb puppy from turning my world upside down.
Things needed to change, and the change needed to begin with me.
God, in His great mercy, pointed out through Scripture that if I truly trusted Him, something as little as a puppy could not steal my peace. Oy. How humiliating.
He then wrapped His loving arm around me and pointed out that He was in control, I just needed to let Him have the reins (or should I say leash). That was the first step.
Each week, as Jasmine gained five or more pounds, I gained a little more flexibility in my spiritual fingers . . . letting God have that much more control.
We faithfully took Jasmine to puppy training once a week. At the end of the sessions even the trainer was throwing her hands up and the air and wondering how anyone could want a dog like her. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled. God wanted us to have a dog like her because He loved me enough to kindly point out my weaknesses, and how I need to change so that I could better glorify Him.
I learned that Jasmine was not motivated by food but by praise. I’ve also learned that when I let stress get the better of me, she goes crazy. My meter. My measure given to me by God to know when I need to let go and trust God and stop trying control every situation.
I also got a deeper understanding of love. That love expressed according to I Corinthians 13 is positive reinforcement . . . the very kind of love Jasmine responds to.
Through His Word, God revealed a wealth of things about why I am here–even when things are out of control, even when I fail, even when I’ve concluded that I’m utterly worthless–I’m here to glorify Him and for His good pleasure.
Jasmine is adorable. She wiggles and smiles and is probably the happiest puppy on the face of the earth. And while she is mischievous and completely self-centered, she can easily wash away my frustrations with her loving licks and rapidly wagging tail. She’s no Bizmark. She’ll never win any obedience trophies. But she brings us a lot of joy. If this creature who creates havoc can bring me pleasure, than perhaps, in some small way, I can do that for God.
But I needed to change. I needed to stop thinking I’m the one that solves all the problems and when things go wrong that I’m a big failure.
I came up with an action plan that arose from my devotions during this time. Here’s the short version:
- Praise the Lord, rejoice in Him, and maintain a thankful heart–always.
- Positive reinforcement in every relationship – Love with God’s love (I Cor 13).
- Live for God’s glory and pleasure.
- Trust God completely–in every situation and in every relationship.
- Pray without ceasing.
- Be gracious and kind no matter what opposition I might face.
While these six things seem simple, they are not. But by the grace of God and the guidance of His Holy Spirit I will strive each day to replace the craziness of my control-freak attitude with these that do produce the peace I so earnestly seek.