At the beginning of April I adopted a stray dog. She showed up on my front lawn and just like that I decided to adopt her. For those who know me (nary a spontaneous bone in my body), this was rather uncharacteristic. But I was compelled. When I looked at her, I could see how scared she was - of everything. She had scars to prove she'd done her share of surviving in the wild. Yet I could also see a sweetness underneath it all. She wanted to trust me, but just couldn't. I heard God say, "Sarah, I want to show you what healing looks like." And so, she became mine.
Day one I took her to the vet; she was visibly shaking she was so scared. Surprise! I learned she was pregnant. I believe the vets words during the physical exam were, "Well, I know she doesn't have more than one bladder so I think she is pregnant." More on that adventure perhaps another time, but today's lesson is about learning to walk.
The first few walks I took Gracie on involved very little walking. She was petrified of the leash, of cars, of crossing streets, of drain hole covers . . . of everything. We did more whining, cowering, and shaking than walking. A friend who is experienced with dogs assured me that after a while Gracie would learn to trust me. She'd learn to go where I led. Her trust in me would help her overcome the fears.
I was skeptical! After the puppies were gone (there were 8 by the way!), the walks were actually worse. Walk number one involved me coaxing her to the edge of my property with treats while she whined the whole time. Just before we got to the curb she became frantic, cowered down on the ground, and wouldn't budge. I decided to try again another day.
She's made great progress over the past few weeks. On our walks I probably sounded like a lunatic to others passing by; I was making kissy noises and talking sweetly to her nearly the whole time for encouragement. It worked so I kept at it. Last week we went for over a mile. It was our first night time walk which included a new fear hurdle - headlights. At one point, scared by some oncoming headlights, Gracie cowered down to the ground. No amount of calling or gently tugging on the leash was going to make her budge. She wasn't moving until she was ready. I squatted down beside her, stroked her head, and talked sweetly to her until she was able and willing to follow me home.
That dark night as we headed home, stopping occasionally when headlights zoomed past, it hit me. The times when I am most afraid - frozen in fear (or grief or shame or confusion), cowered down to the ground unable to move forward - God is with me. He squats down, gently strokes my head, talks sweetly to me and waits until I'm ready to move. When I am most afraid, wanting to trust but seemingly unable, he waits with me. I don't ever want to forget this.
I'm proud to report that tonight when I pulled out Gracie's leash she danced around the den, tail wagging, joyfully anticipating our walk. She didn't cower down to the ground once. We passed each street, vehicle, and drain hole cover without incident. She is learning to trust her master. I hope I can be as quick a learner! Yet I know if I'm not - if I'm slow, frightened, hesitant or unable - God is patient. He waits with me until I can follow Him home.
He waits with you too.