October 11th 2013 No comments yet
My family has an old, old bulldog. Ninety-one in dog years, Chief has been around since I was in fifth grade and spent most of my teenage years happily sleeping on the back porch when he wasn’t terrorizing the neighborhood squirrels and friends who would jump the back fence to come visit me. The old fella is not as spry as he used to be and spends most days in the summer conked out in an air-conditioned garage room at my parent’s house. Deaf, mostly blind, and about as fast as government decisions, he knows how to get from his crate to his favorite spots in the yard and back again, but that’s about it.
The other night I was helping my folks move some stuff from the house to the garage room where Chief sleeps. Since it’s been so nice out lately (aside: praise God for autumn) the room has been warmer than it is outside so we have just left him out most of the time.
But ol’ Chief has his habits, and he wanted into that room. I heard my mom yelling “NO Chief! You don’t want to go in there! It’s so much hotter in there than it is out here!” as she blocked the door with her leg. But stubborn old Chief was going to get in there, doggonnit, and he bumped his head against her leg trying to get in that room until she finally had to shut the door in his face.
It struck me as I watched that geriatric dog try to get out of the beautiful 65 degree fall evening into a stuffy little room; we’re all a bunch of blind old bulldogs.
One of my favorite things to do when life gets me down is to look back and see how many awful doors I tried to walk through that God shut in my face. That job in city government I would have hated, the time I almost moved to North Dakota, that girl that was crazier than a bag of cats, it goes on and on. I kicked and screamed for all those things at the time, often focusing so much energy into them that I was oblivious to great things happening around me.
Often we hear about “God’s plan” for us, but there’s nothing quite like 20/20 hindsight to really let us see how often what we want is not anything close to what’s good for us. At the time, we kick, we scream, we bump our head against the proverbial leg determined to get to what we think will fix us, will make life better, will make us happy. And it usually takes slamming the door in our face to get us off that track.
Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most referenced verses for people going through a hard time and for good reason, as its words are very encouraging. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Most people don’t get the rest of the story with the verse, because the context is God telling the Jews to get comfy in a foreign land for the next 70 years during their forced exile to Babylon. But even in this light it applies to our inner bulldog if we take a look at the verses before it:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Even if God has placed us in circumstances we don’t fully understand and quite possibly hate, it doesn’t mean He won’t bless us in the midst of it. No Jew wanted to be conquered and leave Jerusalem, but they weren’t going to rot in dungeons or go extinct in Babylon. In fact, God wanted quite the opposite. They prospered in Babylon, so much so that when Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great of Persia, many Jews chose to remain there even though they now had the option to return to Israel.
God has plans to prosper you, but I can’t recall many instances in my life where the circumstances of that blessing were what I wanted. And often the circumstances I wanted would have turned out horribly. Just like Chief, we may not fully understand why the doorway to something we think is good is being blocked, but never think for an instant that God is withholding blessings from you. You may just be too blind to recognize what they are at that exact moment.
Like Chief, as he finally gave up on that door and snoozed happily in the driveway for the rest of a wonderfully cool night.
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