It’s not like I carry treats in my pocket. But, you never would have known it, the way the rotund black lab kept her head against my leg as I walked.
She always has done that—kept her head against my leg when she walks beside me. It’s just that she’s never done it while I was mowing the yard.
Every pass—every step of the way. Back and forth we went, the black dog and I, almost as if I had her on a leash.
She could have left any time she wanted. The only thing keeping her there was her fear. And her trust.
It’s funny I should mention fear and trust together like that, isn’t it?
Perhaps, we should go back a few steps, before the terrified—and trusting—canine began to stroll with me on my accustomed pattern through the grass.
The August rains have arrived within the last week or two. I love these times. The summer, mild as it has been, has taken its toll on the verdant vegetation here in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.
The trees have begun to shed extraneous leaves. The grass, still mostly green, had grown a little crunchy underfoot. Another week or so of the summertime heat, and it would have been brown.
Brown is not a happy color.
But, the August rains have come. Unpredictable—even for the folks who make a living predicting them—they arrive, unannounced except for the occasional rumble of thunder across the hills.
Still, the property is for sale and it must look as presentable as possible at all times. When one is dodging rain storms and still needing to mow the grass, you tend to slip the task in between showers and pray for the rain to hold off a few more moments.
I had completed the front yard and, looking up at the darkening sky, determined that I would have just enough time to complete the task in the fenced back yard. The rolling thunder in the distance gave warning, but I was confident.
Most folks who have pets will understand the dilemma my best friends found themselves in. Thunder means it’s time to head for the fraidy-hole under the storage shed.
But. . . The man who feeds us! He’s in the backyard. We must be with him.
But. . . The big booming noise in the sky! Something is going to fall on us any minute now! We have to stay here!
The need to be with their master won out. Covered with dust, they emerged from their hiding place to greet me. I took a moment to play with them, but soon returned to the chore of knocking down the crabgrass and weeds threatening to turn my backyard into a habitat which might soon have to be protected by the EPA.
We’re sorry, Mr. Phillips. You’ll need to move. We’ve discovered a colony of red-and-green spotted toads in your grass. No. They can’t be relocated. You’ll have to go.
So I mowed. And, the chubby black lab, who is one of the most vocal dogs that’s ever owned me, stayed with me every step of the way, whimpering and whining all the while.
She is terrified of storms. Terrified.
But, she trusts me. She knows she is safe when I’m around. On that day, terror was all around, but she knew where safety lay.
She walked, nose glued to my thigh, every step I took. Every lap around the perimeter—every row I mowed down and back—she followed, snout to leg.
The big, brave alpha-male stood aloof, watching her actions. Clearly, he wasn’t going to lower himself to such a place, groveling at my side. But, when I stopped for a moment to reassure the timid girl, his bravado dissolved like sugar in water and he was by my side in a matter of seconds, looking for his dose of reassurance.
I laugh as I watch the memory in my mind unfold again. But then again, my heart sees, in the memory, a picture of myself and the smile is wiped from my face.
Why do we hide?
He’s not hiding from the storm.
He never has. Never.
In the storm, as steadfast as He has ever been, He works. Promises are fulfilled, His plans unaltered.
He walks in the storm. Still.
Not in spite of the storm. In it. On it.
I’ve been hiding. For a long time.
I don’t like the sound of that thunder.
Earlier this evening, as I practiced with the worship team at the church where we fellowship, I was already considering the words I would write tonight.
Preoccupied, I was surprised to see these words on the page before me as I sang:
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me.
Out there, the storm is raging, absolutely raging. Out there, the lightning flashes and the thunder booms.
It is where He is. And, we get to walk beside him.
Leaning against Him. Fear overcome by trust.
Out there, He walks.
Why are we still hiding?
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine.
(from Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) ~ Crocker, Houston, Ligthelm ~ © Capitol Music Group ~ All rights reserved.)
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10 ~ NLT ~ Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. All rights reserved.)