“Give thanks to the Lord , for He is good;
His love endures forever” – Psalm 136:1
I once heard there is no word for “thank you” in the Jewish culture, instead, as a way of thanking someone, a person would tell everyone what a great thing that person had done… I’m not sure how accurate that is, but this is my “thank you” to God…
On June 16, I spent an awesome day in Franschhoek and came home late that afternoon. Instead of the usual happy yapping of my two dachhunds at the door, only one of my dogs was waiting for me. A little concerned, I went outside to find Bruno, the other one. You can imagine my horror when I found him dragging himself along the ground with a strange expression of terror and confusion on his face. Needless to say, my awesome day was quickly forgotten as I swooped him up and headed to the vet. Several agonizing hours later, I came home – without Bruno. He was admitted for observation. I had been informed that there is a common problem with dachhunds’ backs giving in and he required first, a CAT scan (cost R4500) and then an operation (R9000) which had a whopping 5% chance of success. I’m a teacher. I can’t afford that. The vet did say with bed rest and sedation medication, there was a (very slim) chance that he might recover. I chose to hold onto the hope that comes from God my Father, the God I know and believe can answer prayers and heal; even little sausage dogs.
The next morning I was allowed to collect Bruno and hear if there had been any improvements. Instead of the night-duty vet, I met another vet. I understand this is her job and for whatever reason, she felt it better to be emotionally detached, but I was left speechless at her bluntness in telling me I had no other option but to put my dog down. I cried. Right there. In her consultation room. I asked for two days with Bruno, to process everything before making a decision. She consented, only on the agreement that if he showed any sign of not being able to pee, I would bring him back immediately. I took what I could get and we spent an intensely emotional evening fighting the battle between Fear and Faith. My best friend and housemate prayed with me; together declaring God’s healing and love over the dog as well as the situation. Together we trusted that God would be glorified through this, and that whatever satan was trying to do – it would come to nothing.
Two days later – the day I was supposed to return to the vet – my parents came to town and visited with the intention of Daddy accompanying me to the vet. They saw Bruno in his box and saw the life in his eyes; despite the trauma, he was still so very much himself. It seemed ridiculous to even think of putting this little animal down. (I honestly have no idea how I forgot this, but) My mom suggested I go to a friend who is a vet for a second opinion. I did. Despite his caution and very honest take on the situation, he agreed that putting him down was not a decision needed to be made immediately. With an extended dose of medication and restricted bed rest, there was indeed a chance that he might recover. But, the obvious indicator would be if he was in pain and his ability to pee. Somewhat relieved, we went home and continued to pray. And pray. And keep praying. I need to explain that at this point, I wasn’t in the best of places with God and so trusting Him to answer this pray was seriously a challenge for me. I had to remind myself constantly that He is Faithful; that He hears the prayers of the brokenhearted; that He is Compassionate… it was a very dark winter in my home.
Even in this Waiting period, I had a very real sense that God was delaying the answer to this prayer (and B’s healing) for a greater purpose: it was a test of my faith and my character. Would I hold on and seek God’s heart once again, or would I continue to deny Him access to certain areas of my life? Somewhere in the sheer humility of being so helpless, I began an incredible journey back… it’s been a gentle process with lots of baby steps because of all things, God is incredibly gentle with His children. I soon started noticing as my heart changed and softened, my prayers started changing too; they didn’t have the old desperation in them, but slowly a quiet assurance crept in. I knew healing was coming – along with a whole bunch of promises God had given me for my own heart-healing.
Each improvement in Bruno was acknowledged and celebrated: his started to wag his tail at me was my absolute favourite as that had broken my heart the most – he is the most adorable little dog who thumps his tail whenever he sees me. Not seeing that every morning, was a stab in my heart at the joy satan had managed to steal from my life. But God restored the tail wag, along with true, deep joy in my heart. He started shimmying about the house, pulling himself along with his front legs at astonishing speed. At this point, two of my friends generously made him a set of wheels! In between the wheels, I was also practicing my squat-walks – running behind B, holding his back legs so that he could “run” from his bowl to his bed. Bruno continued to make small improvements (trying to lift his back leg in an effort to scratch; first just getting it off the ground and then to his back and finally to his shoulder). Each improvement was met with whoops of joy and celebration.
Two weeks ago, I was visiting my folks and Gabi was looking after the rats. I woke up to the best text message: “Bruno is walking”. I didn’t know what to say. I just couldn’t wait to get home… and when I did: there he was, shuffling about like a little cowboy with bow-legged back legs, hobbling about with the occasional splat on the tiles. He would fall several times, but each time he hobbled back up and kept on trying. We haven’t stopped staring at him in sheer wonder; today he is happily walking about (still needs a little help climbing up steps) and although he has a funny, hop and skip in his step, he is back to being his old, happy self.
Every time I see him walking towards me (or even more happily, walking away from me to go pee on his own!), I am reminded that God is Gracious. He sees the bigger picture and knows the greater plan; our desperate plea-prayers may seem slow in coming, but sometimes its for our own good. I know that if God can be so gentle, and faithful to answer this prayer – the healing of a little sausage dog (fairly insignificant in the greater scheme of things) – I know beyond doubt that He is not only Able, but Willing to answer my other prayers, the deep heart’s cry for Promises to be Fulfilled. The greatest fulfillment comes in the Process of Waiting – God knows the timing, and for now, I am happy to Trust in that… and marvel at my little rat taking another step…