My dog, Bailey, has developed a new habit. She won’t eat if we are not at home, but also, she won’t eat if she suspects that we’re about to leave or that we might leave in the next two hours or so. Bailey also won’t eat in the morning until she has patrolled the neighborhood for threats by looking through the windows at any barking or even strolling dogs who might be walking down our street. In addition, Bailey also won’t eat her breakfast until she gets a walnut – that odd habit the result of her having my husband, Tim, perfectly trained to give her a piece of a walnut as he prepares his oatmeal each morning. I discovered this quirky development when he was away for a few days recently, and Bailey glared back and forth between me and what she must certainly believe is a kitchen cabinet filled to the brim with walnuts. During those same few days, Bailey followed me upstairs each morning and waited outside the bathroom door for my hair to be dried and my teeth to be brushed. She patrolled both of our grown kids’ upstairs bedroom doors though neither kid lives here anymore and they haven’t lived here for quite a while now. During the time that Tim was away, I would repeatedly show Bailey her full bowl of nutritious, balanced, and filling food, and each time, she’d turn her head away, choosing instead to eat bits of crumbs from the floor, occasionally stopping to look up and glare at me to do something. What that something was, I’m not entirely sure, but I did feel her insistence.
Tim believes the shift in Bailey’s eating behavior has something to do with the reality of much less activity here, since we became a true empty nest in October and we are both back to work mostly in person since the pandemic lockdowns, but I don’t know. I think Bailey is just nervous and she is very busy making sure of a few things: herself, having what she needs, and us.
And I get it. I am also by nature nervous. It is my natural disposition to patrol the future for any potential threats, conserving resources in case they’re needed and giving way more energy than is warranted to considerations of what might come down my street. I have been known to shift my gaze back and forth between God and the proverbial closed cabinet that I am impatiently waiting for Him to open for me. But I am learning, over time, that worry, or scanning is just not the mindset that God is calling me to. What God wants for each one of us is what Jesus called the abundant life.
When we disregard our bounty in order to look out and worry over a potential future danger, or when we hoard a blessing or opportunity today because we’re afraid it will disappear, or when we overlook a really good thing in our lives in order to seek out something more or better, all of this has its roots in a scarcity mindset. We can believe that there’s not enough and really, that we aren’t enough. So, like Bailey, we spend a whole lot of time making sure of the things and the people around us and we scan the future for any potential problems that may arise. And there are reasons that some of our brains are wired this way, let’s be honest, but when we engage in this behavior or practice, what we are really doing is stepping over the full plates that God has given us today in favor of frustration and an occasional crumb on the floor.
This Lent, I am learning the importance of finally being present to the goodness that God has for me right in this moment. I am slowly learning that it is not all up to me, slowly unwinding the protective wiring in my brain, and allowing more childlike awe to come back in. As Joe said in that perfect scene in Joe Versus the Volcano when he watched the beautiful moon rising on the ocean, “I forgot…how big.”
One morning recently, I was texting with my daughter and said something like, “I hope you have a great day” and her simple and wise response changed the entirety of that day for me. She texted back, “It already is.” And, you know what? She was absolutely right. The sun was already up. The birds were already singing. I looked around my apple green kitchen at my coffee and blackberry smoothie and sweet dog and all my material needs met. I felt my mostly healthy body doing what it was supposed to and looked forward to the good work I had planned for the day ahead. As the song from the Christian band, Cain, says, on my best day and worst day, I’m a child of God. He loves me and I am his, so no matter what might come, the day He made was already great. I am ashamed and kind of surprised to say this but it’s true: somewhere along the way, I had forgotten how big God is, and what a gift our lives are. And since our paths, like Joe’s up to that volcano, are much more zig-zag than straight, I am pretty sure this will happen again. It is so hard to remember.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” In 1Corinthians, Paul said “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” And in a letter to the Ephesians, he said that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or think, by a power that is at work within us if we belong to Him.
Well, all of this reflects an abundant God who lavishes out love for us, not in Heaven or in some future place or circumstance, but today, here, in the present, if we will have eyes to see. I can’t count the number of times I pointed to Bailey’s full bowl and told her to eat, to enjoy, but she instead chose to eat bits of crumb from the floor while waiting for something other than the bounty she had already been given. I wonder how often I do the same, and how often I miss a very patient God pointing me to the abundance He has already given me.
The abundant life is today. The kingdom of heaven is now, not ‘then’. It’s available to us and growing in and among us today and the truth is that God will never leave us nor forsake us. We don’t have to patrol or worry. We don’t have to gather or scan. We don’t have to ‘send’ God to places or people or work to corral and instruct Him about what He should do next. God is already here and there. He is already love. This Lent, may we experience the goodness right in front of our faces and give thanks for it. Let’s remember how …big, experience right-sized awe in the face of a very good God, and let Him steer while we row, enjoying this abundant life that God has made in love just for us. Just for today, amen, let it be.
Prayer: Dear God whose name I do not know, thank you for my life. I forgot…how… big. Thank you. Thank you for my life. – from Joe Versus the Volcano