My dog, Maple, is a really, really smart dog. But the thing is, the smartest dog in the world is still not as smart as me. Why? Obviously because I’m a genius. But also because I’m a human being, and my brain is much more complex and developed than hers.
I bring this up because right now, as I type this, I am eating some chocolate and my dog is begging for me to share. But, as any good dog-mom knows, chocolate is not for dogs. In fact, chocolate is poisonous for dogs. Little Maple has no idea: all the data her senses are giving her say that it would be a great idea to have some. However, despite the pleasing aroma and the joy she would get from chomping down on my candy, it would hurt her badly. I know this, and because I love her, I won’t let her have any.
Do you know where this is going? I’m hoping you do, because if not, you probably think this post is about the physiological effects of cocoa on the canine body. It’s not.
As human beings, we are very intelligent, and we use our big brains to make decisions about what we think will be good for us. However, for all the amazing things our minds can do, we can’t and don’t know everything. And because of that, sometimes our hearts desire things that won’t be good for us, things that will hurt us badly. But how are we to know? Just like chocolate, these things may seem wonderful, and all the information we have may point to “Go for it!”
Thankfully, we have a Father who loves us more dearly than we can imagine. He knows the things that wouldn’t be good for us. So even when we beg and plead for them, He graciously says no. From our grumbling and small perspective, this “No” can feel uncaring, even cruel. We don’t see his protecting hand shielding us from much more pain and sorrow.
One of the times God said no to me was in my college years. I fervently wanted a successful career as a track athlete. I worked hard at practice, did everything in my power to succeed, and prayed for God to bless my efforts. Instead of championships, records, and titles won, want to know what I got? Tendonitis, a torn hamstring, broken wrist, concussion, another torn hamstring, another concussion, and a ruptured plantar fascia, not to mention my first experiences with depression and anxiety. I was angry and hurt that my plans had been so completely frustrated, and what I wanted so entirely shut down.
However, looking back, it was in these years that God was teaching me to find my worth outside my identity as a successful athlete. He was allowing me to experience a really valid (but in the grand scheme of things, pretty benign) experience of pain. It was in my identity as an injured athlete that I was forced to find a new identity, both in Christ and in other skills I didn’t know I had. Ultimately, these years showed me what a career in counseling could look like, and I liked it.
I am so blessed to look back at some of these difficult times and be thankful for what God was doing for my good. I realize not everyone has that privilege. Abuse, trauma and loss are so hard to reconcile with a God who loves us, and I don’t pretend to have the answer to how it all fits together. What I do know is that life in an imperfect world is always going to be imperfect, but that God offers us a perfect love to help us thrive. That’s my hope for me and you: to bloom despite the rocky soil, to drink up water from rainy days, and rest in the warmth of sun. And to eat lots of chocolate, unless you’re a dog.