Ten years ago, a friend suggested that I get a service dog. Apparently some service dogs can answer the phone, carry in groceries and even do laundry. Those dogs were doing more than my family did, so I was all for getting one.
Our service dog was in housekeeping training for a year. Kramer (named after the Seinfeld character in looks and temperament) was a labradoodle, a cross between a poodle and a Labrador retriever. I’ve since heard that crossbreeding can produce unstable dogs. There’s real wisdom in that.
Kramer could have been the poster puppy for instability. Allegedly he could switch laundry and open doors, but after two weeks, he barely recognized us, ran around the house at breakneck speed, pooped in his crate, peed in the house, and ran away when I called him. He was raised in the country and became unhinged with city life. Or at least that’s what the trainer told us. I live in the suburbs – but I didn’t want to argue the point. Actually, I did, but that’s probably better handled in another post.
So Kramer went back to the country and we went back to doing our own laundry. My kids wanted another dog and insisted it would be NO work for me. All I would have to do was buy the food. They would do everything else.
Of course they would.
So five years ago I agreed to another dog. I was willing to lower my standards and didn’t expect laundry services from him. At least not right away.
I did, however, expect him to eat. Our vet told us that Mocha was not “food motivated,” meaning that Mocha didn’t like dog food. I figured that if I left the dog food out long enough, he would come back to it when he was sufficiently hungry. This method had worked for the girls (with people food of course).
Shockingly, Mocha is more stubborn than my daughters ever were. I was willing to wait for my dog food “training” to work, but the vet, clearly an animal-lover, said Mocha was malnourished and something had to be done about it. According to the vet, I needed to entice Mocha to eat. So there were mornings when I was scrambling an egg to put in Mocha’s food while telling the girls to grab a pop tart for breakfast. It made me wonder who was in charge. You probably know.
As it turns out, the vet and I were the only ones concerned with Mocha’s eating habits. Upon returning from a three day trip last year, Mocha was unusually excited to see me. When I asked when she fed him last, my younger daughter Kristi responded, “Feed him? You didn’t tell us to do that. We didn’t even think about it. But now it makes sense. Whenever we ate, he kept begging for food.”
She’s very astute.
Mocha’s dining preferences notwithstanding, the whole family loves him, including my parents. My mother claims she doesn’t like dogs, but Mocha isn’t really a dog to her. He’s more like a grandchild. And he’s the favorite. My parents greet the dog by sweetly crooning, “I love you Mocha” while they casually wave the rest of us into the house.
Mocha loves us, but he barks at strangers. He barks at friends. He goes crazy when he sees the UPS guy. I’m told he’s trying to protect us. Clearly we must be in a lot of danger.
But ironically, when a neighbor came over to walk him, Mocha was uncharacteristically silent. Actually, he was nowhere to be found. The neighbor finally discovered him cowering in a bedroom, hoping to go unnoticed.
Left to himself, Mocha is afraid of strangers.
He is only brave when he has a job to do. When his task is more important than his fear. When he knows something worthwhile is at stake.
Like Mocha, I too have fears. Some of them are rational. Some of them are irrational. All of them grip me.
Some of my fears involve inconsequential things. Things I can avoid. Like spiders. Creepy circus clowns. Scary movies. But other things are too important to avoid. I can’t let fear keep me from trusting God, listening to God and, ultimately, obeying God.
My list of fears also includes public speaking. Confronting anyone. Writing a blog.
I’m always terrified before I speak to large groups. I never want to have difficult conversations. I feel vulnerable writing about my life.
Every time I'm asked to speak, confront or write, God calls me to step out in faith, believing that He will give me the strength.
So I pray and ask Him to take the fear away. Sometimes He does, and the fear is completely gone. I can move ahead with confidence.
But other times, no matter how much I pray, the fear still remains. It feels like walking off the edge of a cliff into an abyss. I don’t want to do what’s in front of me. I’m petrified to move forward.
So I do it afraid.
I don’t run away, though everything in me wants to. I determine not to give in to fear, even though I’m still afraid. I choose to put my trust in God’s Word, which is unfailing.
I trust that even when I don’t feel confident, God is still with me. He goes before me. He guides me every step of the way.
Mocha is brave when he knows we are with him. He doesn’t have to see us; he just needs to know he’s not alone. Our presence makes all the difference.
Like Mocha, I can be brave if I'm not alone. And unlike Mocha, I am never alone. God will never leave me. As the Lord says in Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
That is our promise from God. He is with us wherever we go.
My fears of public speaking, confronting, blogging, have not disappeared. Almost every time, I feel inadequate. Unprepared. Unqualified. I am often tempted to walk away.
When everything in me wants to escape, I need to stop. Pray. Trust God. Do what He has called me to do. And if I need to, to do it afraid.
Is there something God is asking you to do even though you feel inadequate, unprepared, unqualified?
Is there something in your life that God is calling you to do and you must do it afraid?