You never realize how much you trust someone–or someone trusts you–until you’re in a panic-inducing situation.
Belle had her first experience swimming in a lake on this trip, and she was a bit panicked, even with her life vest on. She has never before been in water where she could not feel the bottom, so the instant she jumped into the water and she realized there was no bottom to feel, she started swimming in circles and breathing heavily.
I know how she feels. When this season of life started, I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t feel the bottom of the abyss of despair. I had no idea what to do.
But Belle did. She swam over to me and leaned into me. I held her up a little bit so her face was a bit more above the water and cooed lovingly at her. She wasn’t interested in moving away from the dock area, a little scared, and I eventually helped her back onto the dock.
When this whole thing began, I sat on my bed and quite literally cried out to God, tears streaming down my face. As I worked through the panic and despair, as I came to realize I really did have other mental demons I needed to deal with, I felt Him holding me and letting me know I could trust Him. And as I did, I stopped panicking as much. There were quite a few times I had no interest in going deeper, in feeling like I would suffer more pain–I wanted to stay comfortably on shore and watch Him work from a distance. But I have learned I can’t do that.
I want Belle to be comfortable in all water, and the only way to do that is to expose her to those situations. I won’t ever force her past her comfort zone, but I’ll insist she try it. (And my little cousins were very insistent.) I could see in her face she wanted to be out with us but she was scared of not having a footing.
I had wanted for so long to truly see God in my life, but I was afraid of being put in an uncomfortable situation–no one likes to suffer in any way. But those experiences help us to truly experience God.
So when we panic, we know we can lean into Him and He will protect us. He will not let us drown.
Like Belle, I had to have a thoroughly uncomfortable situation to really see I could trust Him. And now, while things are far from perfect and this is not yet over, I know He will not fail me.
I’ve said before that my dog has taught me plenty of lessons, and she continues to teach me things on every adventure we take together. With our road trip fast approaching, I wanted to get Belle used to her life vest, especially since she’s never worn one before. So I decided to take her to a dog beach.
Belle is what I call “selectively social.” She’s also the type of dog who, if she is not interested in socializing or in befriending another dog, is quick to let that other dog know. In that sense, she is like me. Perhaps that is why we are such a good match. This means, though, that when we go somewhere lots of other dogs are likely to be, I watch her very closely. She never instigates, but she will defend herself.
We have visited this particular dog beach before, before we really delved into training together, so I could safely compare her behavior this time to her behavior last time. And, boy, has it improved! (Score one for me!)
She loves fetching toys–balls, sticks, you name it–and she doesn’t much care if it’s really someone else’s toy. But she gets very possessive of balls and throw toys around other dogs, so I never bring them. (Can you see where this is going?) One dog parent had brought a water throw toy for their dog, and when it was thrown, Belle wanted to tromp after it, even though the other dog had it in and was swimming back. When I called “Belle, no!” she stopped in the waves, and I could see her think. Then she made the decision on her own–to listen to me and return to me. I was impressed to say the least.
Like I said, she is “selectively social,” so when another dog started trotting around after her and trying to instigate who knows what, Belle got grouchy–just a small warning noise–and ran to me. I try to allow her to stand up for herself first and see if the other dog takes the hint, but when this dog just would not stop, Belle turned. I grabbed the leather tab I have on her correction collar just to have control of her, and this other dog circled us. What I found interesting is that, even though I had hold of the collar tab, she didn’t try to pull from me to handle the situation herself, like she would have done a year ago.
She even sat still for photos and listened to her commands. She didn’t go in the water until I said it was okay, and she came back to me when I told her to. It felt like she knew I was keeping an eye out, and she trusted me to handle the environment.
. . . . . .
On her leash in public Belle is excellent. She can get particular about people approaching me, so we developed a “say hi” command so she would know it’s okay. A complete stranger approached us as we were walking the downtown area and wanted to pet her. She was hesitant about this person and stood close to me, but when I gave her the command, she lifted her head and allowed this individual to pet her. After a second, she turned her attention back to me, as if to say “I’ve had enough,” so I touched her back to let her know I “heard” her.
The best scene, though, was before we left to head home.
We were sitting outside, enjoying a water and the boat scenery, and a young boy–maybe an early teen–sat on a bench just a short distance from us. From the bit of the conversation I overheard while he was on the phone, he seemed in distress. A couple, who I assumed to be his guardians, approached, and he walked up to them, apologizing for something. As he neared our bench, Belle stood and nudged his hand.
“No,” I told her sharply, embarrassed she had just approached without permission.
“Oh, it’s okay, I like dogs,” the boy said, looking to be worried he got her in trouble.
I placed my hand on her back and said to him, “That’s okay. It’s just for her. She is learning she can’t say hi unless given permission.”
But Belle continued to watch him as he had his conversation with this couple. So I watched her.
“Can I pet her?” the boy asked a few seconds later.
“Sure,” I told him, smiling.
Belle took the opportunity. As he bent down to say hi, she folded herself into him and gave him a gentle head butt. Then she did something she doesn’t do to just any stranger: she licked him. And I don’t mean once. She gave him lots of kisses, and I watched with a smile as he laughed joyously and loved on her.
As we drove home, I thought about her interactions throughout the day and how she has improved since last year. I thought about how she listened so well to me, how she was so attuned to me, and how she just seemed to know when someone needed a little extra love. And I was impressed.
. . . . . .
In all we do, it is clear Belle’s trust in me has grown. Our bond has strengthened through training and everything we do together, so she knows me better. She knows when I need her to be near me, whether it’s because I’m uncomfortable in a particular social setting or because I’m in tears at home. Her attention and obedience to commands has gotten better because she wants to please me, and she knows I love her and want to do what is best for her. Our relationship–and thereby her intuition and attention to me–is built on that trust.
Like Belle, I have grown and learned a lot in this season. Like Belle, I am not perfect; I am still learning. Like Belle, my relationship with God must be built on trust–trusting that He loves me, that He wants what is best for me, and that He has good plans for me. But I would like to think that, like Belle, I know my master’s voice better now.
My dad is really good at math. Like can-do-it-in-his-head good. And of course he is–he’s an engineer. I, on the other hand, am not cut out for the subject. And it shows when I have to calculate grades.
When I was little, daddy would try to help me with my math homework. It usually didn’t turn out too well. I didn’t understand the material so I would get really frustrated, and then he would get frustrated with me because he didn’t understand why I didn’t understand. But there’s one particular homework that I still remember.
In elementary school, every class would learn to count to 100 and then we would throw a big party. Well, of course, after we learn to count to 100 we continue on. I had brought home this homework, moving on from just 100, but little me couldn’t wrap my head around what came after 100. To me, it was 200. My logic was simple for a child: 2 is after 1, so 200 must come after 100.
My dad kept asking me: “what comes after one?”
“Two!” I would yell.
His response: “No.”
And I just kept repeating that 1 does come after 2. At some point, I ended up beginning to cry, and I stomped up to my room and curled on my bed. My mom explained to my dad that I didn’t understand what he was asking because my logic was different.
Honestly, I don’t remember what happened in between, but I remember daddy coming up to my room and the lightbulb eventually going off in my head.
. . . . . .
I passed a sticker on a truck today for the 101st Airborne and, though a particular person passed through my mind first (for unrelated reasons, really), this instance of doing math with my dad followed quickly. And for some reason I just thought: “if he had said what comes after zero, maybe I would have understood it quicker.”
My point is that we all see things in this world differently. We come to our conclusions in different ways. Sometimes we can take a “shortcut,” and sometimes we can’t. Because we all have different ways of understanding, it means we have to be patient with others when they don’t see things the way we do or understand things as quickly as we might.
I recently wrote a post about how we cannot place our expectations on someone else. This is similar–we cannot expect others to comprehend or process in the same manner, or even the same pace, as we might.
Sometimes–like in the above instance with my dad–we need to walk away from the situation, take a breather, and then come at it from a different angle. It may take time to come to a solution. What’s important is that you are eventually on the same page. It doesn’t necessarily matter how you get there.
Daddy has taught me a lot of lessons, and he may not even know it. Heck, I didn’t even realize this was a lesson until this afternoon. And then it hit me. He may not have meant to do it, but he taught me something that resounds through the years.
. . . . . .
I don’t know why this came to me so suddenly today or why it resonated with me so much. I do feel, though, that it came at this time for a reason. This knowledge wouldn’t have served me well as a child because I wouldn’t have understood it, and it wouldn’t have been relevant even a year ago because I hadn’t grown in the way I have now.
Maybe it came to me now because God has a plan for it.
And that’s the thing: God has solutions for every problem we encounter. But sometimes we are too busy yelling “logic” and “reasoning” and “reality” at Him to really hear what He is trying to tell us.
Maybe what He is telling me now is to be patient and start simple. And for once in my life, I am content with that solution.