Michael brought home a puppy the other day. Great. Now we have three dogs. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s cute enough and loveable enough. But he’s a handful. He chases Zack and Clarice† around, so full of energy. And you always gotta keep an eye on him until he’s trained, making sure he’s not underfoot in the kitchen, or when you’re walking (anywhere). Making sure he’s not chewing on power cords or pooping in the corner. Not that he does those things (much); Michael is very watchful of him.
The past two days, though, Michael has had to be out all day making out of town trips, and I’ve had the pleasure of bearing some brunt of the watching responsibilities. But my work schedule is less flexible, and I’ve had to put the pup in his crate while I’m at work. I feel so guilty, so worried, about it, and I rush home for lunch, stay a little longer, and come home a bit earlier at the end of the day just so the little tyke won’t be boxed in too long. Once at work, I’m fine; I become absorbed in my tasks and don’t fret much until it’s nearing time for me to make my stops home. And on the way home, my mind races with images of him locked up, wimpering, wanting to play or having to go potty, and whether he’s been holding it too long or whether he’s gone in the crate. How horrible for the little guy. What if I were to just leave him out, close the bedroom door? Then he’d be free to stretch his legs, chase Zack for company, grab some water or munch on some dry food for those 3-4 hour stretches. He’s learned to use the doggy-door in the bedroom, so he could go outside if he wanted.
But that’s the problem. He’s still too young to be left unattended. Zack and Clarice are fine by themselves; they can be trusted. They’ve learned the rules and know how to be safe and well-behaved. But little Rascal could chew on those cords, get dangerously caught in something, or if he goes out, might be mistaken by a hawk for a juicey rabbit. And today I realized that simple truth. Better to inconvenience him a little, better that he be a little uncomfortable, than to allow him to be at risk or endangered.
And with that thought came that same nagging sense that there was a spiritual principle to be gleaned there. How many times have I been “inconvenienced”, or things did not work out the way I’d been praying? When I felt like I’d been left in a box unattended or fogotten? How many times had God not given me what I’d requested, when I wanted it, and how I described it? Why were some things slow in coming, seemingly put on hold for a time, even indefinitely? What’s wrong with God? Why isn’t he making things easier for me?
The connection seems obvious, doesn’t it? And sure, there may be other reasons things don’t work out the way I pray. “You have not … because you ask amiss ….” Maybe I’m simply not supposed to have or do certain things, and I’m just too obtuse to recognize it yet. Or maybe there are other things on my plate that I haven’t attended to yet, and my request would be just one more thing to become neglected.
I do not believe God is stingy or begruding of good things. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). I’m sure his heart, like mine toward Rascal and the other dogs, is to lavish his love and affection, and not to withhold any good thing from me. I’m confident he is not trying to make my life difficult just to build character or something. I have to believe that when he withholds things from me, either for a short time or permanently, it is for my own good.
If my request is not some frivolous or selfish desire, then perhaps I’m simply not mature enough to handle it yet. Maybe if granted, it would do me more harm than good. Maybe I’m not ready. In that case, withholding the thing is an act of love on God’s part. So perhaps instead of whining about the delay, I ought to be looking for the reason, the area of my life that needs development, growth, or improvement. Maybe I should take a good, hard look at my life and make sure the groundwork is laid, that I’ve made space for the thing I’m requesting, that I’m at a place where I can handle it, take care of it, be responsible with it.
I believe God wants to free me from my constraints, wants to let me out to play. So when I’m feeling stuck in a crate, the variable must be with me. Am I ready to come out yet? What must I do to become ready?
My puppy Rascal is energetic, eager to explore new things, and wants to play all the time. But he isn’t mature enough to handle the liberties and privileges of the other dogs. And until that time, better a little inconvenience than to place him within harm’s reach.
Just something to consider …
† Dogs’ names have been changed to protect the innocent.