Puppies and Pride

People really think that they’re a lot more important than they actually are. My puppy accidentally taught me that tonight.


We have a pen that we set up sometimes to keep her away from the stairs, but recently she has figured out how to open it.

Tonight, we adjusted it so that her usual trick won’t work, and when she went running to the top of the stairs and couldn’t get through, she gave me a puppy look that clearly said, “But, Ari, I was just figuring out how to get through it!”

It was when I answered her with, “Some things exist to protect you, not prove your ability to get through them,” that I made the connection.

How many times have these words crossed our lips in prayer: “God, I don’t understand! I was just starting to be able to handle it!” or “It was just starting to make sense!”?

Do you see where I’m going with this yet?

I’m here to propose a shocking idea. What if, sometimes, the things God puts in our paths aren’t about us proving ourselves? What if the setbacks aren’t Him saying that we’re ready for a bigger challenge? What if it’s not about our ability at all?

What if the trials are there sometimes to show us that it’s time to let go?


My Sister, Abby (Part 18)

“My mom just doesn’t get it!” I exclaimed one Sunday afternoon, joining Chad outside after lunch one day, exactly sixteen days before school started again.  He raised one eyebrow and rested his skateboard on his shoe.  He’d heard this spiel before, and he knew that I wouldn’t be done until I said so.  “She just doesn’t understand that just because I’m going to church doesn’t make me nicer to Abby.”

Chad still waited in silence.  I didn’t plan on adding anything, but the quiet started to get to me, so I finally came out and said what I was thinking just to break the silence.  “Well, I’ve gone to church with you for four or five weeks now, and you keep talking on and on about everything they say so I don’t forget it, but I don’t want to like Abby anymore.  There isn’t any difference in me since I’ve been going to church.  I haven’t magically become like you, and my mom doesn’t understand that.  I’m just not like that.  I wasn’t made to be a Christian the way your teacher keeps talking about it was I?” I ended somewhat ruefully.

Chad looked like he was about to burst, so I rolled my eyes and told him I was done and I wouldn’t rip his face off if he answered my question.  That was all the invitation he needed.  “Yes, you were, Jessie!  That’s all we’ve been trying to tell you all this time!  You were made to be a Christian.  Everyone was made to be a Christian.  You are one of the lucky ones that know how.”

I’d heard all this innumerable times in the past month or so, but something was different about today.  I ventured a couple more questions.  “I already told you what I know.  I know that I’m not a Christian and I’m not meant to be.  What makes you so sure that I am?  Why does everyone seem so sure that I am meant to be a Christian?”

“How do you know you aren’t a Christian?” he asked immediately.

“Because I’ve been around you and your friends long enough to know that I’m not the same way, so if you guys are Christians, I’m not.  Of course, it could be the other way around, couldn’t it?” I asked hopefully.

Chad shook his head slowly.  “No, we’ve had this conversation before, Jess.  You know how it goes.  Our attitude isn’t what makes us different.”

“Yeah, sin and forgiveness, blahdiddyblah blah blah,” I answered half-heartedly.  Something told me that I didn’t really feel that way anymore, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with that feeling.

Chad seemed to sense it too, somehow.  “Jessie, you’re so close,” he all but pleaded.  “Why don’t you just let go?  God will catch you, I promise, and he’ll never let go!  He’ll wrap in his arms and hide you close to his heart where no one can hurt you again.  He’ll be the Father you can feel proud about claiming.  He’ll never leave you, and he’ll answer questions you don’t even know you want to ask.  He loves you, Jess!  You know that.  You’ve heard in class just how much.  He gave up his Son so that you could become his child!  Why don’t you see it?”

I was silent for a moment.  “Chad, I’m not sure.  I mean, you were a Christian, and God let my dad hurt you!”

“But you started coming to church after that.  There was a very good reason!”

“And why would he let Abby come here?  Do you have a very good reason for that one too?”

“Not yet, but God sure does.  He’ll show you when it’s best.  Right now you  have to trust what he says, and later you’ll see the result and trace the reason.”

“Do you have a fancy church word for that too?” I asked sarcastically, trying to hide the slight glimmer of hope that his words were giving me.  There was a conflict going on inside me.  Part of me said that if Chad could get so excited over this, it must be something amazing, but then there was the other side of me that said that there was no way it was the truth.  The problem was, I didn’t know which side was my logical side anymore.

“We call it faith,” Chad said simply.  “Believing in something you can’t see, and trusting that God will work it out for good.”

“But this is terrifying,” I answered one of his earlier questions.  “What if I do decide to let go, and it turns out to not be real, and I just keep falling?”

Chad looked at me carefully.  “Jess, is that really what you’re afraid of?”

I glanced at him, scared.  “You keep saying that God will be my Father.  I only know one dad, and he’s in prison for trying to kill us both.  Can you blame me for be a little cautious here?”

“But Jess, while I know your dad is a jerk, God won’t be like your dad.  He will be the dad yours should have been.  That’s the beauty of it.  Believe it or not, you already rely on him.”

“I know,” I cut in.  I couldn’t have explained my strange conflicting feelings and moods if I’d tried.  “He makes and maintains oxygen and gravity and the orbit and the heat and everything.  He’s keeping me alive right now.”

“Do you actually believe that?” Chad asked, surprised.

I kept my eyes on the ground.  “If I weren’t entirely sure there was a God, it would be easier.  If he didn’t exist, he couldn’t do anything to me even if I did decide to place my entire self in his hands.  We’re talking about someone with enough power to crush me with a stray thought, though.  That’s what I’m really afraid of.  You’re going to say that there’s nothing to be afraid of, but then there’s that verse that your teacher used this morning.  It was something like, ‘Who can say what God’s thinking?’ and that isn’t exactly what you’d call comforting.”

Chad looked confused for a minute, then his face cleared.  I was surprised to find that I wanted to have my questions answered satisfactorily.  I really wanted to be able to trust a God who, according to last week’s lesson, never changed and could never be anything but good.  I didn’t tell him that, because I needed to hear his answer, and I was afraid that if he knew what was riding on it, he’d get too nervous to answer.

“There’s an answer to the question asked there, Jess.  I think it’s implied, but it’s saying, ‘Who except God can understand God?’  He knows exactly what he’s thinking, so he is qualified to describe himself, right?”

I could see where he was going, and I let my enthusiasm loose in my answer, shocking Chad.  “Yeah, he must be!  So all that stuff the teacher has said is God talking about himself, because he can.  He knows himself.  And if the Bible is just God speaking, then everything the teacher read has to be true, because God said, from that one lesson, that he cannot lie.  That means that it’s all true.  I really do just have to let go of myself, turn away from my sin, and ask God to accept me, like they say at the end of every class!”

A wide grin spread across Chad’s face as he recovered from his shock.  “Are you going to do it?”

Looking into his eyes, I could see that he knew I’d already made my decision.  Smiling back at him, I nodded firmly and was surprised to hear my voice come out in a hoarse whisper.  “Yeah, I’m going to do it.”

*NOTE: All characters and events portrayed in this story are purely fictitious.  Any resemblance to actual people or events is entirely coincidental.*


Next part next Thursday!  Suggestions, names for various characters, or other questions, comments, or concerns can be left below, or you can e-mail me at the address on my contact page.

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