Nacho is our dog. He’s small in stature but large in personality. Some bark, some bite and lots of swagger. He’s endearing in a too-tart lemonade sort of way; you can only take so much of the little buddy.
This week Nacho’s endearment to me lessened. Here’s a short string of email exchanged between Katrina and me.
Subject: The dog ate…
your ear phones….
I guess he climbed up on your desk and got them.
~ The informer of bad news.
Subject: RE: The dog ate…
I hate him.
Subject: Re: The dog ate…
Oh, Sweetie…. you’re cracking me up. Just makes me giggle having you hate the dog.
At least someone can laugh.
As I mourn the demise of my beloved ear phones, I’m pondering this thought: “Reality is the greatest ally of God. It is the things you cannot do anything with – the useless things – and the things you cannot do anything about – the necessary things – that tend to do something with you!” (Richard Rohr, From Wild Man to Wise Man, 115) Does that mean my dog’s affinity for everything but his food is a poignant reality through which I can learn more about God, and myself?
Like dog-chewed ear phones, life’s frustrations have many looks: lost car keys, checkbook balances near or below zero, the family game night that morphs into family feud, funerals, another gray hair, a reduction in work hours, colonoscopies, icy roads, leaky diapers, mirrors that reflect too big, too little or the wrong shape, a terminal prognosis and vomit-covered carpet in the middle of the night. Ah, life!
Ever wanted to escape reality – at least the bad parts? You know, close your eyes, count to three and all becomes unicorns, butterflies and kittens? Such fairy tale thinking ends when we open our eyes to reality where the useless, the necessary, and the frustrations of life do something with us. But how, and why?
The struggles of life chip-away at our cleverly crafted façades – pretty façades we build to mask our truest thoughts about life, ourselves and God. When frustrated, we must answer this question: what do I do when I don’t get what I want?
I wanted a nice set of ear phones. I had them – for a while. Their destruction upset me. How should I respond? Do I complain, pout and have a pity party? Do I lock myself in my man cave and grumble? Do I storm around the house accusing everyone of negligence? Do I kick the dog and call it good? (just kidding – mostly)
When frustrated, emotional pull, cleverness or a re-doubling of effort is not what God wants from us. Like Rohr said, God wants reality to do something with us. He allows struggle to thwart our comfortable ideologies. Like spiritual rolling pins, the trials of life smooth, shape and flatten us. They extrude us toward a finished product that is “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)
God encourages us to face life head-on. To be worked-over by reality. To be honest about our inabilities and inadequacies. To grieve life’s brokenness. To acknowledge the pain of disappointment and loss. And in that process He graciously paces alongside, waiting for us to sit, rest, trust and surrender to Him. John Owen had it right: “Faith and worship will bring rest and satisfaction, when reason will only drown us.” (Spiritual Mindedness, 96).
Life is messy. Broken. Frustrating. Chewed ear phones are functionally useless, but spiritually priceless. Life’s frustrations aren’t roadblocks. They’re opportunities to engage my story with God’s story. Often I don’t know what God is up to. Reality is not predictable, and many times unreasonable. But that’s the point. God uses the good, bad and incoherent to do something – a wonderful something – with me, and with you. When we let Him.