Nothing went right yesterday. Well, nothing went as I had planned or expected. I was finishing up my third day of training on a new job. The job is a route sales position that operates primarily in third shift, so my body was adjusting to this new lack of regular sleep. Just before 9am, I received a message from my sons that our two adult dogs escaped out of the fence, bolting down the street and out of sight. Their puppy, left behind, was described to me as “paronoid” (sic). I felt the same way. Having just worked 12 hours through the night, I neither had the energy nor the calm demeanor to handle this. I knew they would be out of sight by the time I had a chance to search. They were. I drove up and down streets nearby with no sign of them. I shared via facebook and a community message board and attempted to get to sleep. I’m happy to report that today, after another 12-hour day, I was able to stop by the county animal shelter and find that both of our dogs are safe and sound!
I could stop there or go on to thank all of the people who helped share the message that the dogs were lost. But there is something much deeper here that I absolutely could not miss and have to share. Just have to. I’ll try to be as brief and clear as possible. Given my two hours of sleep in the past 40 hours, wish me luck.
The dogs had escaped a fence. I did not install the fence to punish them. My love for them set the boundary, encouraging them to stay with me where they would be safe, loved, and cared for. My male dog did not always see it as love. He wanted freedom. But I know better. If he runs free, he could go unfed. He could experience harm. He could cause harm. I set the boundary out of love. Yesterday when he escaped, he experienced freedom. And for the first time, our female dog followed him. But they were no longer protected. They happened to be discovered not terribly far from home, but they could not get home by themselves. They were lost. And now that they have been found, they can come home. But there is a price to be paid before they can return to the love that wanted them close. A steep price.
And I want to make a jump here to something that may seem incredibly strange at first, but bear with me.
God loves you. The boundaries around you are out of love, not to punish you. God will protect you, but stepping into something that looks and smells like freedom can leave you unprotected. You could be harmed, you could cause harm, and you may even be leading someone else into that same risk. But God seeks you. He wants you home because He loves you. And God will pay the price to reclaim you.
How do I jump from dogs to God? Nothing went as planned yesterday. When I tried to sleep, my son woke me up to see if I could give his friend a ride to work. I said no. Soon after that I received a call that my middle son was waiting to be picked up from soccer practice because the time on the information sheet was wrong. I went to pick him up. While I was out, I asked a friend about picking up some football equipment for my youngest son, but she was unavailable. Instead I went to the library to print off packing slips for books that were sold through Amazon. While I was out, my oldest son confirmed that his friend definitely needed a ride to work. I looked at the time and agreed to it so long as everything went right. I picked up my oldest son, went to pick up his friend (after missing a turn), and dropped them off at work five minutes late. Then I saw that someone had spotted our dogs ten minutes ago. I went and drove that area but did not find them. Remember, my dogs were picked up not that far from home. So what happened in all of these changes to my day? I believe that God was actually leading me away from my dogs so that I did not find them on my own. If I had found them, I would have missed THIS:
I recently resumed a daily habit of painting a “thank you” under a picture of a cross on the wall of my bedroom. It was a habit I had learned about placing any praise or gratitude that we receive at the foot of the cross. What has been remarkable, is that lately every day when I have done this, God has provided something unexpected for me. I’ve been financially strapped without a full-time job for over nine months. Some of that was by choice as I pursued a degree in ministry, but I had suddenly found renewed meaning in praying for daily bread. But things I no longer needed sold on craigslist, books sold on Amazon, and all at the strangest times. I’ll take bold step and admit that by the end of July this year, the grand total of my income has been $60. But every bill has been paid, no meal has been missed, and God’s provision has been astounding. I have even been able to help with frantic calls for grocery money, a phone replacement, gas money to get home after being stranded, and bus money to get somewhere safe. I was only the vessel. God made a way. Now please follow this next part closely.
On Tuesday, my new schedule caused me to forget to paint a “thank you”. On Wednesday, I was busy worrying about lost dogs and forgot to paint a “thank you”. When I went in to work last night, before leaving my car, I wrote this on the back of a receipt:
Two times for the two days. I worked twelve hours. I pushed off my new boss’s request to keep me longer so that I could go and check for my dogs. I found them, safe but scared, in separate kennels at the shelter. I was asked to give proof that they belonged to me and I wanted to ask if my tired and relived tears were enough. Instead I showed a picture which confirmed what she had already witnessed: I knew them and they knew my voice. Then came the news of the cost to reclaim them and bring them home: $492.
My stomach dropped. Not because I would refuse to pay that, but because I cannot. I am completely unable to pay the cost by myself today. She allowed me to pay for the rabies vaccinations and to come back with the rest when I can. When she printed the receipt for the portion I was able to pay, it took everything in me to hold back a wall full of tears at what I saw. And it had nothing to do with those silly, runaway dogs I call mine. It had everything to do with what God was pounding through my stubborn heart. Look at what was on the receipt I was given:
Beloved, I cannot make this stuff up. Let me add one more detail before I wrap this up. Yesterday I wrote this status on facebook: “When I am in one, I don’t especially care for a day that I know will become a sermon. Not even if it makes a good point. Just sayin.” In other words, I knew God was up to something, but I had no idea what. Now I do. So here’s my sermon.
Yesterday friends and strangers helped spread the word that I needed help. And if that was you, I pointed this piece out to you so that you or someone you know can hear this: God loves you. He wants to keep you close out of love, not a punishment. He knows you will find freedom in His love for you. And if you have run away, done things you shouldn’t have and now regret, if you are lost and cannot find your way home, there is good news. God seeks, knows you, and comes for you. You will know Him when you see Him. You will know His voice. And He will point to you and tell the one who has locked you up and imprisoned you, “That one there: she is mine. And he is mine. I’m taking them home.” And the one who locked you up will add up the cost of what you have done. The rules you didn’t follow, the fact that you had not been stamped and sealed as God’s, all of that will add up. And God will say, “I know. I paid that price.” The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was not for a good story. It was a real life with a real cost out of real love.
I know this was only about lost dogs, but it really wasn’t. If you read this far, it was for you. You need to know – today – just how much God loves you. Hear that voice. Know His love. Be safe and protected once again.
And what about me? What was the whole point that I should hear? I can’t do this on my own. I’m not in control. I need grace. I need help.
It was the greatest of humility and gentle boldness that I admit I need your help. Our dogs are still locked up until I can pay the price. I’m asking for your help if you are able. I looked into ways I could raise funds and pay them and the fastest way would be if you would be so kind as to send what you can by moneygram. If you do, simply use my name as Douglas Roede for the receiver. I am in Michigan. And you will receive a reference number that I will need. You cold send that, along with the amount of your gift, to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 6162092446. I am in tears to even ask this, but God has made His point. I cannot do this walk of life alone. I shouldn’t even try. I need grace. I need love. I need someone willing to pay the cost.
If you read this, thank you. If you shared this, thank you. All I really want you to know is that God loves you. And somehow He used my silly, runaway dogs to have me tell you that today.