Life is not easy at the moment.
My husband and I are both unemployed and have been since we returned from our 5 month training in Uganda, East Africa last year. Finances are tight. Well, let’s be honest, we have no finances but God has been faithful to provide a job here or there for my husband as we have needed food or gas.
We have had to go without many things for the last year and a half, but last week held one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make in our 2 ½ year marriage. My husband and I had to surrender our dog Phantom to a rescue shelter. If you are a dog person, you know that a dog is not just a dog, it is a family member. This last week we prayed without ceasing that God would provide more time for us to find jobs and be able to move somewhere that would allow Phantom, but that was not the answer He gave. A foster family was found, and Phantom was taken to them, and our hearts were broken.
Some may say God didn’t answer our prayer, but as I have wept and grieved I have heard the soft whisper of the Lord to my heart. We and so many others prayed for more time for Phantom, but I think what God was doing was giving more time to my husband and I. A few weeks ago the thought of giving up our dog seemed unbearable and unthinkable. No way would that be God’s answer. However, over the weeks, as we have prayed and cried together God moved our hearts. It is a supernatural thing. God didn’t take away the pain. He didn’t end the suffering that comes from losing our precious little buddy. He didn’t provide a way for us in the way we thought He would.
What God did do was show us the tenderness of His Father heart in giving us more time to let Phantom go. God did not traumatize our hearts and ask us to just suck up this difficult thing. God walked us through the time of uncertainty into a place of surrender. I think sometimes we think of surrender as a place where we scream out, “Ok fine God! Have your way!” And we huff and we puff and then fall into a heap of confusion and pain. I don’t believe God ever intended surrender to feel that way. As a Father, I think He gently and firmly holds onto whatever we have in our hands until we are able to let it go. I think His heart is to see us release that thing, whatever it is, and jump into His arms.
When He knew that Chris and I were ready to release Phantom if that is what it came to, He gently pulled him from our hands. We didn’t yell at God for not answering, we collapsed together onto our knees and wept with all our hearts with our Father’s arms around us. We wept knowing that not only was He holding tightly to us, but He was holding firmly to Phantom. Because Phantom matters to us, He matters to our God. There is great peace in that truth.
I said before that today was a rough day. I woke up this morning and saw that my phone was flashing, indicating someone had commented on a Facebook comment I had made. The back story to this is that the sweet rescue that took Phantom for us had posted Phantom on their Facebook page to advocate for his adoption. They were amazing and so helpful and were integral in us being able to let him go. We knew he was going to be in good hands from the moment we first spoke to them on the phone.
Long story short, some woman (not associated with the rescue) had commented under Phantom’s photo that she was disgusted by us that we would give our dog up. She said directly to me that I wouldn’t give up a child would I? And in her exact words she said, “I’d live under a bridge with my dogs before I dumped them.” The rescue responded to the inappropriateness of this because they are professionals and I greatly appreciated that.
However, when I first saw the comment, before I had even set my feet on the floor to start my day, my heart broke. I know many of you reading this right now are reacting on my behalf to her comment, and believe me, some not so nice things went through my head too, but God revealed something to me. He showed me how far some people are from understanding God’s love.
This woman obviously thought we were selfish and looking after ourselves rather than Phantom. I sat there and thought, yeah, if we had kept him a bridge is exactly where we would be because there was no other option. So yes, we could be homeless with our dog and we would all be together, but we would have no food or shelter. I then looked at a picture of Phantom at his new foster home in a chair, on a blanket, relaxing and looking perfectly content. He was being cared for, taken in, put in a family. He didn’t look lonely or abandoned. He was being him in his new home.
I began to cry as I thought, hey, we did the selfless thing didn’t we God? Wouldn’t it have been selfish to keep him instead of putting our hearts aside to give him a chance of finding a family that can care for him right now in a way that we can’t? We gave up this dog that we loved to a shelter we knew would do their best to give him a chance at life.
My heart softened and broke as I thought about God and what His word says about His heart. He gave something up he loved in order for us to have a chance at life too. Yet, whereas this woman thinks love is about not giving up at all cost, God showed me that the harder kind of love is to make a choice that insures the best possible chance for the one that is loved, even if it is at great cost to you. God’s way of loving is so far beyond mine.
He has revealed to us the tenderness of His Father’s heart to prepare us for something difficult to bear. He has shown His faithfulness in providing something good for the one that we could no longer provide for. He has given peace in the midst of loss knowing that what we no longer hold isn’t tossed to the side but held lovingly and firmly in His hand. Lastly, He has shown us that so many do not understand His love and reject the sacrifice He made for our good for the sake of clinging to what they think they can hold.
So, it's been a rough day. But regardless of having “nothing”, I can look up now and see my husband’s smile and the peace God has given him in the midst of our circumstances. I can look at these words I’ve written and know that without God the words I would write would be very different.
These are the times where God’s word is alive in us. This peace that passes all understanding that guards our hearts and our minds is present in us. And just for the record, I don't believe I have nothing, I believe I have everything that matters and the rest will come in time. My husband's smile and the love of my Lord are more than enough.
Thank you Father.