Ripcord won best in show at the Beverly Hills Dog Championship last weekend, and I don't think it was because he was the most beautiful dog. Of course, he was in fine form, his coat shiny, no ounce of fat and surely a well-behaved Doberman. I think, honestly, what caused Ripcord to stand out from the others breeds was the way he gave full attention to his owner. There is a point in the dog's presentation when after he and the trainer have loped down the red carpet before the judge, that the handler brings the animal to a full stop. Each competitor must affix its eyes on the owner. The dog is rapt--tail up, feet planted firmly on the ground with no movement, ears at attention. The dog is not distracted by anything--he only has eyes for his trainer. And even with all the hoopla of his win, Ripcord's eyes rarely veered from his handler. There was one moment after the victory when Ripcord placed his long legs on the owner's shoulders and licked her face. He was allowed this affection as they'd pulled off a feat no other duo was able to perform as well-- they'd stayed in tune.
Lately, as I've faced unexpected pathways with health, a mentor asked me to consider this question: What does God want to be for you now that He has not been able to be for you at any other time in your life? This question intriqued me, so I began to inquire of God what the answer might be. After a few hours of waiting to hear, I sensed I heard the word longsuffering. "I knew it," I said to myself, "This whole sickness thing is about me getting better at being patient and enduring and suffering long-term so that I can reflect the attributes of God." I felt betrayed. This did not seem like something I wanted to sign up for, hadn't signed up for.
I almost fell for it--the enemy's illusion of God--He's out to punish. You've got to prove yourself. It's up to you--your effort. But I closed my eyes and cried out, "No this is not the God I know. He is not out to get me, to punish me. I've learned that He's waiting to be gracious to me, that He longs for my heart to be vulnerable to His love, to His comfort, to His healing, to His provision and mercy." I seized the truth that God desires to be longsuffering toward me during this time. He would have me come to Him and sit at His right hand so that He can minister to me and keep me safe. He says, "Let me shepherd you through this, receive my comfort and healing, focus fully on me, taking no thought for the morrow. I've got you. Rest. Enjoy my presence as longsuffering is my job. And the beauty is that as you allow me be longsuffering for you, you achieve this fruit of my spirit yourself."
Like Ripcord, my focus is on my trainer. I fix my eyes on Him. And at the end of the show we will embrace, as our affection is unbounded. And we will win.