|Photo courtesy of Brian Bridge|
We gathered at the dining room table for the evening meal, a delicious repast normally salted with the laughter and banter of friends coming together again after a week’s absence to catch up on each other’s lives. But this week the fellowship was subdued as Jack’s nonappearance hung over the group like a dark cloud, the muted conversation punctuated by Terry’s repeated calls to the dog in the night. In between her trips outside she sat at the table with head down, idly twirling spaghetti noodles on her fork, her heart apart from the discussions going on around her.
Finally Gary could stand it no longer.
“Don’t you know that what’s important to you is important to God?” he asked her. At that she looked up and said, “Of course.”
“Then let’s pray and get this over with,” he said, quickly leading us in a short prayer asking God to bring the dog safely home and thanking Him in advance for doing so.
As the table was cleared for the ensuing study time I struggled with the battle going on in my own mind. God’s “be anxious for nothing” command echoed repeatedly in my brain, even as my mind considered the dangers to a small dog out alone in the night, ranging from cars on the busy street outside to coyotes in the surrounding rural acreage. My hope for a positive outcome bounced around in my heart like a ping-pong ball, slammed about by the paddling of negative circumstances on the one hand and then buoyed in return by my belief on the other. Finally God scored the winning point by asking me which camp I would find myself in when Jack came back in the end, as surely he was going to do - would I be rejoicing in His proven faithfulness with the rest, or apologizing for my lack of trust once more? Too many times I’ve been in the latter group; I didn’t want to hear again the words Jesus spoke to Peter as He reached to rescue him at the end of his water-walking adventure: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”. Now was the time to choose faith over fear, and I made a conscious decision to do so.
God Himself seemed to applaud my decision, as I subsequently found message after message from His heart to mine in the printed pages of the lesson we were studying. Appropriately called The Transformed Heart, it was a discussion on the way God reveals His presence to us in the storms we go through in life. Surely He did so to me, even as the rain fell in the cold night outside. I captured His words in big circles of blue ink with an increasingly confident smile on my face, to the consternation of my husband/group leader sitting beside me who wondered what on earth I was doing. As my papers grew more and more marked my faith grew, as well, until all doubt was dismissed and belief rose to take its place.
The mention of Peter’s name above reminded me with a smile of another group meeting recorded in the Bible in which the faithful had gathered to pray for Peter’s release from prison. Suddenly their prayer gathering was interrupted when God sent His answer to their request in the form of Peter himself, knocking on the door! And indeed so were we nearing the end of our weekly time together when Terry’s daughter suddenly jumped up and ran to the back door in response to a noise she heard. Soon a wet and weary Jack was running wildly about us once more before trying to jump into Terry’s lap. Even covered in mud and muck though he was, she opened wide her arms and delightedly welcomed him home. Eventually bundled in a towel and sent off to be bathed, only the overjoyed smiles on the faces around the table and the dirty streaks on Terry’s shirt remained to tell the tale of how God Himself taught us a lesson on His faithfulness on a night when we were studying the same.
The ping-pong ball in my spirit is silent now, the paddles still once more…waiting for the next time that faith and fear face off on opposite ends of another issue. May trust in God ever be victorious in my mind, my heart and my life.
“ The truth is that faith and worry cannot inhabit the same space at the same time. One of them has to go, and we get to choose.” - Graham Cooke