In October, a few weeks after Annie’s funeral, we took a trip.  We borrowed a “Big Rig” and drove a big circle through the Eastern half of the U.S.  Our kids still talk about the trip frequently and we are so thankful that many memories of that time in our lives were happy for the kids.

We had the most bizarre experience when we arrived home.  Peter wrote about it soon after it happened, but I’ve been pondering it a bit.

Hank, you know Hank, spent the two weeks we were away at the kennel.  In a road weary decision, we decided to pick him up in the Big Rig, so that we wouldn’t have to venture out again once we arrived home.  He was so excited to see us . . . we were so excited to see him.

Imagine our surprise when we arrived home, walked into our screened-in porch and found a note that said, “I’m on a walk.  Love, Hank”.  We looked around to find a dog bed and other obvious signs that a dog had been spending time there.

And then, our neighbor Annette came into view, leading a dog, that looked just like Hank.  It was kind of like when you think you see a movie star: “Is that Hank?”  “I don’t know.  It looks like him, but nah, I don’t think so.”

Somehow someone had told her that we needed someone to watch Hank for the second week of our vacation.  Eager to help out, she had dutifully been feeding/walking/taking care of “Hank-but-not-Hank” for a full week.  Apparently, this dog had run away and just happened to be wandering around the neighborhood at the time she was told her help was needed.

So we were standing in the middle of the yard with two dogs . . . Real Hank, obviously very upset with this other dog who had so wrongly taken up residence in his domain, and Hank-but-not-Hank who was as happy as a clam by the spoiling he had received.

We stood there discussing what we should do, all of us in hilarious shock, when Peter said, “Well, maybe we should look at his collar.”  And there, clear as day, was his name and phone number of his owners.

You’ll never believe his name.


Which explains why he was so obedient and came when called.

When his owner came to pick him up, clearly overjoyed, her words stung me a little.  “Oh, we thought we’d lost him forever.  My boys have been taking it so hard.”

And I couldn’t help but look at William and Kate swinging in the backyard and think, “But he’s just your dog.  They’ve lost their sister.”  Have you ever wanted to remind God of just how unfair He can be?  But then you realize that without Him to cling to, you’d never be able to take another step?

I look back at that story and I think of John the Baptist.  The one who prepared the way for Jesus.

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.  He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ . . . but among you stands one you do not know.  He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
John 1:19, 20, 26b-27

Time after time John the Baptist is shown pointing others away from him and toward Christ.  His whole life was dedicated to ushering in Jesus, the Messiah.

Yet, not long after Jesus began His ministry, John found himself in jail, sending his disciples to ask Jesus,

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

Because we all have in our head what we expect Jesus to be for us, don’t we?  We find it easy to trust Him when things are going the way we’ve planned it out.  We don’t mind doing hard work for His kingdom when we have a clear direction and purpose that allows our life to stay on its own happy course.

It’s like we know we’re walking Hank and feeding Hank and we’re happy to do it . . . and then we find out it’s not really Hank.  And when we see the REAL Hank, we realize that the two dogs don’t really even look the same.  All of a sudden, we see that we’ve been following our expectations more than we’ve been following Jesus.

And we find ourselves asking God if He’s really sure that He has the plan figured out.  I mean, what’s fair about one little boy praying and finding his dog  . . . and a brother and sister praying and losing their sweet baby?

Every day I’m learning more and more that God’s economy is not like the world’s economy.  In the center of this upside down thinking is where we feel the most at peace.

I found this in Beth Moore’s book John that I read last summer (page 95).

“We stand on the edge of our cliff-like emotions looking into the deep cavern of our grief, and we’re sure that the jump will kill us.  Yet for those of us who entrust our feeble selves to our faithful Creator, in ways I can neither explain nor describe, it doesn’t.  When death of some kind comes and we are willing to take it to the cross, to remain nearby, and to suffer its grief, we will also experience the resurrection.
We say, ‘But part of me has died with it.’  And indeed it has.  Hear the words of Christ echo from the grave: ‘I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains itself.  But if it dies, it produces a large crop’ (John 12:24).  As a child bearing the name of Christ, if a part of you has died, in time it was meant to produce many seeds. “

The prayer for my life is that I would strive to follow the REAL Jesus and not my feeble expectations.  Because the Hank-but-not-Hank was a nice enough dog, but a million times over, I’ll take the real Hank.