About a week ago, the Lynch family came back from a vacation at Newport Beach. It was a great time. I was allowed to take naps and mindlessly surf cable stations through Ginsu knife infomercials and reruns of Barnaby Jones. None of this, of course, am I allowed at home. Stacey works me pretty hard. But I digress.
With us, was our Golden Retriever, Bali. I like her more than I do most humans. We made a bed for her across the front seat, while all three girls crammed into the back. Did I mention I really like her? Bali loves the car. I take her on short trips to the park, or to pick up something I forgot at the office. But she soon realized this would be different. We were about 45 miles away from Phoenix, entering the world’s most desolate stretch of desert wasteland, when she stared out the window and then back at me, as if she was saying, “We’re not going to the park, are we? And hey, we’re going really fast. You’ve never gone this fast before. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed; but, I’m not wearing a seatbelt.” (Maybe I’m over-reading her comments, but I don’t think so.) Then she studied me for a long time as if she was thinking, “Master, do you have a plan? Are we gonna be alright? Can we just go home? I’m really thirsty.”
It dawned on me in that moment-Bali’s the only one of us who doesn’t understand what’s happening. All the rest of us know the plan, where we’re going. For all Bali knows, we’re moving, or she’s being taken to the animal shelter, for some indiscretion back home. All I could do was try to reassure her by stroking her fur and whispering that everything would be alright and soon she’d be running free at the beach. All of which I’m sure sounded to her like, “We are going to abandon you here in the desert at the next mile post sign.”
By the time we got to Blythe, she had to pee. When I let her out at their grim version of a park, she looked at me and shook her head. “Let me see if I understand this correctly. You want me to pee here? I thought we were friends.”
For the next several hours, she couldn’t get settled. She was panting and drooling from fear or confusion. Then something beautiful happened. She took a deep sigh and laid her head down heavily on my right hand. Soon she was fast and deep asleep, unbuckled in a Honda Element barreling down the highway faster than she’d ever gone, to a place she’d never been.
I didn’t move my hand for almost a hundred miles. Even in desolate surroundings, she knows I love her and would protect her at significant cost to myself. It touched me to see how much my dog was counting on me to be a good man, how much she trusted me.
I’ve been reflecting on that ride for the last several weeks. Bali’s journey is not unlike my journey with God. Although He knows exactly where we’re going, it’s lost on me. I have no idea why certain events happen each day. I mostly just feel like I’m along for an out of control ride. Sometimes it feels like things are occurring because of something I did wrong. And a lot of the road goes through desert, uncomfortable and cramped, and way too many stops look like Blythe. And we’re going really fast and I’m not wearing a seat belt. And much of the time I’m panting and sighing out of confusion and fear. And about all I’ve got going for me most of the time is this dogged conviction that He is good and He is not playing a game with my heart. And that He knows exactly where I’m going, and at some point in the trip, I will get to watch a sunset with my family on some beach. So, finally I lay my head upon His hand. And He doesn’t move it. Those are the times I am at peace. Those are the times I rest and enjoy life, even though everything around me is chaotic. I’m pretty sure my trust touches God’s heart too.