Guest post by Allison Mullins
During a particularly low point in life, the boys and I went to the beach. “The boys” were my three dogs, Randolph and Mortimer (basset hound brothers) and Zorro (a chihuahua terrier mix). I generally liked to be at the beach. The boys, divorced from their normal routine, were not as sure. They were fine as long as I was in their direct line of vision but could easily agitate if I moved.
To make matters worse, Zorro was recovering from surgery so he was still on kennel rest. Out to the bathroom, back to the kennel. Boring. And not enough activity for the other two. Since I could not take all three on a walk together, I decided to take Randolph and Mortimer separately—thereby leaving two dogs in the house together instead of stranding Zorro by himself.
Mortimer was the most outwardly demonstrative of the dogs and the most expressive of his hound emotions. If he was upset, he would turn his back on you and lie down. If he wanted attention (pretty much all of the time), he nosed anyone who was near until he received the desired petting. Mortimer liked to walk, especially on the beach. New sites, new smells, lots of people, very exciting. So I knew that Mortimer would greatly enjoy the execution of my one-dog-walk plan. Him alone with Mom on the beach. Perfecto.
The beach house was built up in the air—tall with many stairs. Basset hounds are full-sized dogs (Mortimer weighed in at 48 pounds while Randolph tipped the scales around 58) but they go through life on very short legs. Thus, stairs are difficult for them. Fortunately, the house had an elevator.
To execute the one-dog-walk plan, I put Mortimer in the elevator, pushed the button for the ground floor and closed the door. I planned to take the stairs, stop on the second floor to get his leash and the house key, and then meet him when the elevator arrived on the first floor.
Being in the elevator alone was definitely out of Mortimer’s comfort zone. And being Mortimer, he started to let me know about it—so loudly that I thought he might disturb the neighbors. I raced down the stairs to get the leash and the key, reassuring Mortimer all the way.
As I descended from floor two to floor one, I told Mortimer (still in the elevator) that if he would just be patient, he would really like what was coming next. And then I heard something clear, distinct, calm, and quiet that stopped me in my tracks—”You are just like Mortimer in the elevator. You fight against where you are even though you will really like where you are going if you relax and trust Me and My timing.”
Wow. Our God is so creative—using a barking hound dog in an elevator to deliver a message so profound and yet so easy for me to understand.
I was Mortimer’s mom. I loved him and had a plan for him. There was a reason he was in the elevator—and it was very much for his own good. Although he did not know where we were going, I knew. And I knew that he would very much enjoy it when we got there. I needed and expected him to trust me—to trust that there was a reason that he was where he was but that I knew best and wanted the best for him and, in my timing, all would be clear to him.
But instead of trusting, Mortimer rebelled. He barked and fought against the process of moving him from one place to another. Because he did not know and because he did not see, he did not trust. It was more difficult for him and it was more difficult for me—to hear his agitation and rebellion while knowing that if he would just relax for a few minutes while my plan came together, he would be happy and pleased with the outcome.
All of that—and God informs me that I am just like Mortimer in the elevator. Oh my. There was a lot in my circumstances that I did not understand and a lot to fight against at the time. My then-husband of 9 years left following an announcement that he was just “not happy.” So those months held a lot of fighting and bad behavior on both sides as I railed against the betrayal of his vows and he railed against what he apparently saw as the prison of them.
This was made doubly hard by the fact that my Dad, whom I adored and who was always the person I called when I wanted reassurance that I was good enough, that I was strong enough, that I was beautiful enough, that I was…enough, died the previous February. Even over the phone, I could snuggle up on his lap and feel the warmth of his heart and his love for me. It was the band-aid that covered the gaping love-hole in the marriage. So when Dad died, the band-aid came off. The hole-filler was gone and the gaping wound was exposed.
When something so awful and so painful happens to you, you have choices. You can choose to run from the pain and the circumstance, believing or hoping that when you get far away, everything will be better. You can choose to believe that all of the fault lies with the other person and thus excuse yourself from any self-reflection or examination of the cause. But the problem with those choices is that, when you get far away, when you escape from the circumstance, the same person who was part of the combination that created the original disaster is still there—and will be part of any future combinations and any future disasters.
Your other choice is to stop and take a look at you. At any destructive or difficult attitudes or behaviors that you have been displaying, anything that you did to contribute to the outcome.
This is an incredibly humbling experience. It takes a lot of built-up pride in your self-sufficiency and how much you can handle on your own and force feeds it back to you to reveal your own inadequacy. Yikes. I know this because I walked it, I experienced it, and I came through it. I am a better person for it. Although the pain I felt was searing hot and very real, I survived. The rejection was terrible beyond words and for a long time tried to pull at me in silent moments. And I emerged with the very real knowledge that God is the only guarantee. People can make choices to give or withhold love. And while we hopefully all have wonderful people in our lives who choose to always love, God made a choice to love us and God does not change his mind.
It is amazing to me how God stepped into this place of pain and, when the elevator doors opened, the beauty that unfolded before me. In those most painful moments, I would never have imagined that I would one day feel so grateful for the betrayal because, without it, I would never have gotten to experience the utter joy of my promised land. But that is a story, to give it the justice deserved, is best saved for another moment. The point for today is that God knew that promised land was there all along. He knew the destination and all of the steps to get there—the fact that I did not know those details is immaterial. My choice was either to trust Him or to shake my fist at him, complaining about my circumstances and bemoaning my plight. There is no question that you will have Egypts (shorthand for a place of trial and bondage (see Exodus)) in your life. The question is whether you are going to mire down in the muck of your egypt or whether you are going to let God lead you out. If you are a Christ-follower, you can eventually get to the destination either way—it’s just that one way is filled with turmoil and grief while the other lets you rest in the boat saying “Peace, be still” to the storm that rages around you. (See Mark 4:35-41).
I don’t know your circumstances and if I have learned anything, it is that one size decidedly does not fit all. To fight or flee, to hold tight or let go. I will not and cannot tell you that there is only one path that the “left behind” (in any “left behind” situation) can take. I am going to tell you what I did. I sought God in my circumstances. Honest and bare every day, I poured out my heart and my tears to Him. The One who knew me before I was born, the One who knit me together in my mother’s womb, the One who truly knows all of the details—inside and out. I was not perfect in the pursuit and I was not perfect in the following. I still sometimes turned to the right or to the left—but I did seek and ultimately, I followed.
And He answered. He answered in my imperfection and my longing and my searching. But that answer was not like the turning of a page. It was more like the unwrapping of an elaborate gift. There was a process and it took time.
Following God is not like putting an address into GPS and then abiding by the clearly-spoken turn-by-turn directions until you arrive at your destination at the exact time predicted. Following God is a lot more like hiking a mountain with a not-so-well-marked trail. You discover yourself in those moments when the trail is not clear. And you discover Him too—learning that He is there in every moment. In fact, He is the only One who both marks your way and is guaranteed to be there through all of the dark days.
It is no coincidence that the difference between “trial” and “trail” is the inversion of two letters. And it is no coincidence that those letters are “I” and “A.” He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He knows the path complete. And I am—well, I am me, a person with limitations (on my own and outside of Him) that are as vast as His power is great. Alone, I am the inverse of his Alpha. When I put me first in the equation, the trial remains a trIAl. If I invert the order and put the Alpha first, my perspective changes and the trial becomes a trAIl, the path that He has for me. And I learn that, no matter the twist and turns, He knows the way. And like Mortimer in the elevator, one day the doors open, the perspective broadens, and the sun rushes in. And then we see that our Father, the One who knew all of our days before one came to be (see Psalm 139), knew the right buttons to push all along. If we will lean into Him, trust Him, seek and follow Him, we will see that He keeps His promises. “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Trust the Alpha for your Omega. Trust His beginning for your good ending and for every good thing on the journey. When the doors seem to close, the darkness closes in, the way is uncertain, and the surroundings seem small—lean into Him. He is guaranteed. He is the only One who is. Trust Him with your journey. For He knows the next step and the one after that and the one after that. He promises that He will take your trial and turn it to a trail. He will give you beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of despair. (See Isaiah 61:3). If we can just trust, and pray, and wait for the doors to open according to His plan, we will like the outcome. What a blessing it is if we can really embrace and enjoy the journey, trusting in His goodness and His love for us. The destination in Him is assured. The path there is in many ways a product of our choices—which will we put first, I or A? Let’s choose His trail instead of our trial. Let’s choose his greater knowledge over our lesser knowledge. Let’s trust the Father of light and not yield to the father of lies. Let’s lean into the Alpha and enjoy the journey on our trail to His Omega. It’s going to be good. Guaranteed.