Are We Missing What’s Right in Front of Us?

I have a routine, you? In the morning, I mean. I have a routine that makes all the world go better if it’s followed and everyone gets on board and stays consistent. Ringo, the feline pursuer of snakes, rodents, and other species of prey in the animal kingdom starts gently but firmly patting my face between 4 and 5 a.m. It’s better if I simply get up then and not pretend I will win this game. Buddy goes outside, I feed the cats, Buddy comes in, I feed Buddy, and we all, except the cats, go back to sleep until 6:30ish. We get up for the day, Buddy and I go for a morning walk, sometimes jog, mostly walk unless its icing or 10 degrees or less. He then stays in the yard while I proceed into the house and get ready for the day. When I’m ready to get in the car for work, I go downstairs to let Buddy in and everything is right and ready in the world, well, in my world, so there’s that.

Last Thursday morning everything moved up about an hour because I wanted to get to work early to have a better handle on the class I’m teaching. This is a challenging book we’re doing and sifting through what I’ve read to decide how to facilitate discussion is particularly challenging. But bumping the routine up is not a problem… usually. Everything happened in order until I went to let Bud in right before I was ready to get in the car and head to work. I opened the back door and called, and he didn’t come and I couldn’t see him from the door. I have big tufts of pampas grass in the corner that hide some green metal boxes and he can get behind them, which is where I figured he was because he can watch the neighbors who have a wild-eyes Corgi better from there. I walked out to get him and he wasn’t there. I turned back around, and there it was, the sign that every dog owner dreads but knows will probably happen someday… an open gate.

My lawn care people took advantage of a warm day last week to put down pre-emergent. I knew because they left their little sign stuck in the yard that they’d been there. They have instructions to make certain the gate is closed and latched. I’m guessing it was closed because Bud had been in the yard twice up to this point and come in, but it evidently wasn’t totally latched and when a hard wind or Buddy bumped it with his nose, it came open. Whatever, Bud was gone. I had low-inch heels on that day and slacks and a sweater. I run up the side hill, look down the street and do not see a dog or any other movement of any kind. I begin to run toward Woodland, a busy street particularly in the mornings, fearing he’s made it there and been hit. It takes me about 45 minutes to get ready in the mornings, so I figure he’s had some if not a majority of that amount of head start. I run about a quarter of a mile to Woodland and do not see him flattened in the middle of the road but nowhere else either. And yes, I’ve been yelling his name so as to wake up the still sleeping in outer-Slobovia, the whole time I’ve been running, to no avail. So now I’m running back toward my house feeling the search on foot is fruitless. Still yelling, by this time carrying my shoes and hanging on to my glasses that are not made to stay on my face when running, sweating, and yelling.

I punch the buttons to get in my garage, get in my car, and head toward Shawnee Mission Parkway, the other big street that while farther away, has the most traffic and where he’s likely to be dead. No dramatic despair in my psyche! I get close to SM Pkwy and realize he’s not going to have gone that far. He’s pretty much scared of his own shadow and a runner with momma, even off-leash. He’s the one who, when set loose out in the country with acres to explore, runs 10 yards and turns around to see if I’m coming or to make sure he can still see me. So I “allegedly” if you’re in law enforcement, may have made a u-turn at a non-u-turnish place in the road. And if so, had looked every direction to ascertain that no cars were coming from anywhere as far as Dallas or Minneapolis or maybe from within my sight lines, which would have made it totally safe if that’s what you were thinking about doing, hypothetically speaking.

As I’m driving back toward home I realize I have to get to work. My world is upside down and on its side without the possibility of being put back right again, but I have to go to work – classes to teach, souls to save, sermons to write, Jesus to follow etc., etc. And as I get to my house, there sits a black dog named Buddy in my neighbor’s yard, one house over… ONE. HOUSE. OVER. I don’t know if he’d been sitting there the whole time, but I hadn’t turned that direction once because the busy streets were down the other way and my I-know-he’s-laying-dead-in-the-street perspective was solely focused on facing that eventuality. Had he watched me running in my good clothes screaming his name through the neighborhood? Had he sat in patient silence as I backed the car out, rolled down all four windows and yelled his name through the streets again as I drove? Had he sat and wondered when it might occur to me to slow down enough to remember that he’s a dog who knows where home is and how he’s not about to exuberantly run away from too-expensive food, the only time I’m not allowed on the furniture and have to pretend that’s a rule is when people are visiting, and if I lay my chin on my paws and roll my eyes up at her when she’s leaving, I always get an extra treat? I pulled in the neighbor’s drive, opened my driver’s door, and Bud jumped flat into my lap on the steering wheel and all and licked my face and my glasses and got whatever mud he’d run through on my slacks and sweater and didn’t bat an eye when I said I was never going to feed or walk or run or play with him again… ever, and that I was seriously thinking about lopping his ears off and frying them for dinner. I know, right? GROSS! But I said it!

We got back home, came in the house, I changed my clothes and got my heart rate back under a hundred and left for work, still with a bit of time before the start of my class.

So what about Jesus? You know nothing happens in my life without me wondering about Jesus. Remember those two disciples after the crucifixion? On the road to Emmaus where “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” when Jesus walked alongside them? Was he unrecognizable? Was he a ninja? Was he in stealth mode? Was he wearing camo? Or were they so determined that he was dead that they couldn’t see him living when he was right there beside them? Were they so determined that their world had been turned upside down and on its side without the possibility of it being made right again that they couldn’t see the blessing, the goodness, the life that was right in front of them?

I know the analogy breaks down if you take it too far, but maybe if we let it stand where it is for a bit, it can make some sense. Are we so accustomed, determined, prepared for, numbed into expecting the possible death of every situation, that we miss the equal possibility of life? Next time maybe Buddy doesn’t make it through the experience – not every story has a preferred ending. The crucifixion happened; humanity did indeed respond to God with our worst selves. But even if the story doesn’t always turn out with our preferred ending, is it possible that the promise of life in our God who wants good things for us is still the reality of hope? And is it possible that hope can keep us taking the next step in life regardless of what in the world happens or what happens in our world?

Here’s a pic of Bud and Ringo before I left for work for the 2nd time that day. His ears are still attached. As for Jesus and the resurrection – there’s more about that in worship at Grace the next three weeks, Holy Week, Easter, and following. Hope springs eternal at a place called grace, and I mean that quite literally! :o)