A yellow dog showed up at our house on the day of our son’s third birthday. I remember him gleefully looking up at us as he hugged the dog, “You got me a dog for my birthday!?” he exclaimed, pushing all his other gifts aside.
We stared at him blankly. We had no idea where the dog had come from. He just happened to have great timing by showing up to a party he hadn’t been invited to. We broke the news to William gently, telling him the dog could stay, but only until we found out where he belonged. We crushed his heart, but what in the world!? What kind of dog just shows up on a birthday?
Our searches left us empty-handed and eventually, we realized the dog was here to stay. We named him Hank and he stole our hearts.
A few years later, we found ourselves in a place of deep grief after we buried our third child. William had just turned five; Kate was almost three. Unable to process what had happened so suddenly, we decided to take some time away as a family. We took Hank to ‘Camp Kennel’ a few towns over and drove away.
The moment we pulled into the driveway three weeks later, we sensed something strange had happened. On the floor was a new dog bed and other obvious signs that a dog had been living in our home. A note was taped to the door, “I’m out on a walk. Love, Hank”. We looked at one another in confusion. We had picked up Hank from the kennel on our way into town, just a few minutes prior. He was currently running through the yard at breakneck speed, revisiting his favorite spots.
That’s when our neighbor came walking up, with a yellow dog on a leash that looked just like Hank. Only it wasn’t Hank. It just really, really looked like Hank. Somehow, as our community had scrambled to surround us, she had gotten the message that she could help by taking care of our dog, which she had done so faithfully for the time we’d be gone. As it turns out, a different yellow dog just happened to run away at the same time and when she saw him in our yard, she assumed it was our Hank.
And just because this story couldn’t get any more confusing, when we checked his collar to see where he belonged, we found not only a phone number but a name. Hank. The Hank-imposter was also named Hank. I know.
When Hank-but-not-our-Hank’s owner came to get her dog later that day, she innocently said to me, “Oh! We had lost hope that he was going to return! My kids have been taking it so hard.”
That’s all it took for my fragile world to start spinning. I looked at William and Kate playing in the backyard. I had just mustered the courage to go back into the house, with the empty crib and the endless reminders of the daughter we had buried. How could I be happy for her kids, rejoicing over a lost dog, when my own kids had lost their sister? My heart was crushed.
I wonder if you’ve ever been confused by the way God is working in your life. When the plans you have come to a rushing and disappointing halt, in spite of the prayers you’ve prayed. What are we supposed to do when we’ve taken all the right steps and done all the right things, and yet, somehow, we find ourselves holding a broken heart, a shattered dream, a bleak future? How do we live when life doesn’t seem fair?
There was no one who championed Jesus like John the Baptist. He was driven in his message and focused on his mission. As he preached a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins, he fulfilled what Isaiah had prophesied: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Luke 3:4).