I've been spending a lot of time the past two days underneath the dining room table, which is saying something for the simple fact that I'm 17 weeks pregnant. I'm not huge yet, but my balance is still off kilter and getting myself onto the floor and then into a comfortable position on the gray flowered Ikea rug is a massive accomplishment.
You see, my dog Champ came down with a sudden illness yesterday afternoon. In the morning, he was the same old too-energetic Champ, barking at everything he saw from his bench window, chasing squirrels outside, begging for food from underneath Titus' high chair. While at my writing desk, I heard him panting behind me. When I turned around, he was shaking, tail between his legs, eye twitching. He couldn't seem to focus on my face when I talked to him and his whole body seemed to lean to one side. He was stumbling around, falling over, drooling everywhere. I scooped him in my arms and took him downstairs, where I saw he had an accident. I called Tim immediately and begged him to come home to take him to the Vet ER. In my panic, I stubbed my toe while rushing to get Champ's favorite blanket. I don't remember doing it but later I noticed it was hard to walk and my toe was twice its normal size. I maneuvered my swerving dog onto the blanket and face-timed my mom. She couldn't talk long, so then I began to pray.
Tim came in, picked Champ up, and I told Champ he had been a good dog. I honestly didn't think I would see Champ again.
Yet a few hours later, Tim returned carrying Champ in his same fragile state, and set him in his dog bed. The diagnosis was Vestibular Disease, caused by either a severe inner ear infection that has thrown off his equilibrium or by a brain tumor, which could only be confirmed by an MRI. For now we are treating him like its an ear infection and waiting for him to turn a corner, but he has yet to do so.
He has been unable to walk and has been hiding under the dining table unless we move him to another place. It works well for him. The rug seems comfy, it is close enough for us to keep an eye on him, but away from the main business of our household. The chairs prevent Titus from getting to him before I can prevent him from trying to rouse Champ from his peace.
The song "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" came into mind this morning as I crouched with Champ under his dining room fortress.
In the past few years, I've often frantically searched for a way out of the particular hard parts of adulthood, marriage, and motherhood. I've looked for a fortress to hide underneath for protection. Surely, I'm not the one who has to quit this wonderful job, tell my awesome boss that I'm leaving to raise my kids? Surely, I'm not the one that doctor is looking to for an answer to this decision? Surely, I'm not the one who has to discipline this toddler for the first time? Surely, my God, you are not asking me to have a brand new baby while my toddler is still not yet two and my husband is in the hardest PhD semester yet?
Surely Lord, you would not ask me to watch my four year old dog die from a brain tumor? You would not ask me to keep my one year old son who loves him so much from his furry best friend?
I really wish I did not have to deal with this right now. Or ever.
So I looked toward my fortresses. I called Tim, texted my best friends, cried to my parents. But still it is God calling me to walk through this hard thing. No other person can do this for me, no one else can save me. They are gifts to me from the Lord, but He alone is the Mighty Fortress of my life. And the truth is He already saved me, and it had nothing to do with how I withstand trials (thank God), but all together to do with Christ Jesus winning the battle.
So underneath the dining room table, next to my possibly dying puppy, I'm crying for Jesus to be my mighty fortress and to remind me of how He has won, how He wins, even as He is fortressing me through this battle.
In the house church shepherding world, I've been faced with this question of "fortressing" over and over again. I tend to slip into a "Savior-complex" and sometimes I try really hard to be someone else's fortress. When they call, I rush in to meet needs. But lately, I've realized there is a big difference between showing other people Jesus and trying to be Jesus. The problem is that I just can't be Jesus, and when I try, both parties end up frustrated at my failure. The other is disappointed by me and my crumbling foundation. Don't get me wrong, God calls us to be kind and compassionate to one another, but he never tells us to try and take His place. It's a fine line, and I honestly can't say where it is and struggle with my daily decisions on how best to love and help people without ultimately hurting the both of us. My prayer is to not become cynical, resentful, and hard-hearted and to be able to love like Jesus did without attempting to somehow pretend I can be a mighty fortress.
After all, when we are weak, then He is strong, amen?
I leave you with this music video from my alma mater, Cedarville University's Heartsong. I pray it comforts you and reminds you of your Mighty Fortress today.