When I was growing up, we had acres of woods around us, and it was my favorite place to be. There was a big tree with a vine at the top of one hill, and all of us kids would gather there and take turns swinging on it, daring each other to do more and more dangerous things. I loved to climb those trees, and there was a special joy on days we had just been to the library and I could climb to the top branches of a favorite tree with a new book and read all afternoon.
But mostly, I spent hours just walking in the woods with my dog. Being in nature has always made me feel close to God, and as I grew into adulthood, I continued to go on walks with Him nearly every day.
This past year, two new dogs have joined me on these walks. They are Yorkie-Doodle rescues, and training them to walk with me has been an adventure. When we first started walking together, they would freak out if any other creature crossed our path, and I would have to pick them up and carry them home.
One day, as I was teaching them to walk beside me even when they were scared, a big dog ran the length of his yard barking at us. I was murmuring to my little ones that it was okay, and they were whimpering back, Can't you hear? He hates me! He wants to eat me!
I kept walking and talking in a soothing voice. “That dog is chained up. He may bark loud, but he can't touch you. And even if he were loose, you're safe as long as you stay with me. Look at me, don't even look at him. Just keep walking beside me and looking at me.”
And in my mind, the Lord said, Exactly.
How long has He been teaching me to walk with Him, to not be afraid? Though the enemy may growl and bark and want to devour me, he's chained. As long as I keep walking beside Him, I'm fine. If I get scared, He invites me to just keep looking at Him, staying in step with Him.
Gradually my little ones have learned to trust that they were safe with me. Now, even if a big dog is roaming loose and approaches us, I can call them to heel and they will just stay close to me as we walk by.
They've come a long way since the first time my husband and I walked with them to the park. A lady with a dog about twice their size came towards us with a friendly smile. As we drew closer to each other, one of our little dogs suddenly panicked, wriggled out of her collar, and charged right up to that dog, barking madly to warn it off.
I apologized as I scooped her up, but the lady was deeply offended and turned her nose in the air exclaiming, “Well, I never!” She seemed to think that I had either intentionally set my dog on hers, or that I should be angry and teach my dog a lesson.
But I knew my dog was just acting out of past trauma. She had been found on the street with a litter of puppies, only one of which survived. It would take time for her to feel safe and to heal. In the meantime, I wasn't going to get angry with her, as if she were somehow making me look bad.
How often are traumatized people made to feel guilty for making the Master look bad!
A friend of mine who was going through a terrible divorce that she didn't want, was abandoned by her church, and facing awful lies spread about her through the community, became understandably awkward in public for a time. People who appear socially awkward or have social anxiety have often experienced very real social trauma.
One day she said to me, “I'm so glad Jesus is a good Master. I feel like I keep walking into rich people's houses and accidentally knocking over a priceless vase. They get so upset and I feel ashamed, and I know I could never pay for it because I'm just a lowly slave.
“But then Jesus steps in, because I'm His slave, and He tells them to put it on His account. Then He looks at me and rolls His eyes and says, 'Don't worry about the vase.'”
Don't worry about the vase.
I'm making that my new motto. Don't worry about the vase, or the lady with the turned up nose and the perfectly groomed dog that looks like a bear cub. Don't worry that som
ehow you're making God look bad.
As if you could. He's really not trying to impress anybody.
Just take a breath. And go for a walk in this beautiful world He's created. Spend some time alone with Him, and remember who He really is. He's a good Father, and a good Master. And He's not ashamed to be with you.