I unbuckled the safety harness and scooped Clementine up out of the passenger seat of my SUV where she faithfully rides shotgun. As I lifted her out of the vehicle my mind wandered to a time long ago when Luke was a my co-pilot. We had a routine, a system. I would hop out of the vehicle and he would bound over the center console and gleefully fall into my arms as I would swing him around, setting him down on the ground like a plane coming in for a landing. If it’s possible for a puppy to laugh, I’m certain that Luke did just that each time I grabbed him up in my arms to exit the vehicle. He was a happy baby who embraced the good things in life. Especially chicken nuggets, ice cream and sleep. Luke had strong opinions about some things, but overall he was mellow and laid back. He definitely lived up to his name, Cool Hand Luke.
As I carried my little Clementine from my car to the gate at my parent’s place I held her tighter than usual, breathing her in. How is it that someone so tiny can take up so much of my heart? If you had asked me, I would have said that I hoped for a pup similar to Luke in every way to happen into my life to fill the void that was so prominent with him gone. The Lord knew that was the last thing I needed. As the memories of Luke rush over me in waves, this little fireball of a pup, the antithesis of Luke, brings unexpected comfort and joy. It’s counterintuitive. Clementine is a tiny tornado ripping through my life, leaving in her wake inexpressible happiness. I’m frequently overcome with emotion as I contemplate the magnanimous grace of God packed into this opinionated, independent, pint-sized puppy.
Every day for weeks Luke dove out of our SUV into my arms and then suddenly, one day I realized that he was getting too heavy for me. I began teaching him to step out of the seat, onto the running board and onto the ground. He picked right up on it, but wasn’t excited about doing things differently. Not unlike me, Luke was a creature of habit. He was content to continue diving into my arms. It worked well for him. And so, about three days into the new routine Luke made one final attempt to do things his way. I stepped out of the vehicle, reached my arm across the steering wheel to grab my keys and Luke did a swan dive over my arm, crashing into me with a huge smile on his face. I braced for impact and barely avoided a broken arm as I was flung backward out into the driveway. I caught him. All fifty pounds of him. Luke was unscathed. I, on the other hand, took a few days to recover from the incident.
Trust. As I ponder Luke’s leap of faith, I’m struck by his level of trust in me. Luke had absolutely no doubt in his mind that I was going to catch him. I always caught him. I had never dropped him. He didn’t even consider the possibility that I might not be able to catch him. What must it be like to live life uninhibited, totally trusting? Far too often I convince myself that I’m trusting as I pray for clarity. I press in for answers, for certainty, all the while believing that my faith is in its proper place. I know that God is good. I know that He is faithful and capable and worthy of my trust. So, why do I struggle and strive for clarity? Why do I hesitate to dive out into His arms with a smile on my face, certain that he will catch me? Why is simple trust so difficult?
It’s subtle, the sin of certainty. I pray for God to guide me, to show me what to do, to explain things to me. Sometimes the answer is swift and obvious. How I cherish those moments. But most often I’m left to wrestle with uncertainty. It’s uncomfortable. The tension exposes in me things that are unpleasant and deep-rooted. I have come to realize that it’s precisely within the uncertainty that I most need to marinate. I’m reminded of John Kavanaugh who in searching for clarity in his life, sought the prayer of Mother Teresa. Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him, to which she replied, “What do you want me to pray for?” He asked her to pray that he would have clarity. Mother Teresa said bluntly, “No, I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh rebutted that she always seemed to have the type of clarity that he desperately longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
I have prayed for clarity many times and on occasion God, in his infinite mercy, has illuminated my path. But I have come to realize that when certainty is my heart’s desire, my prayer must be for trust. Trust in a God who ushers incomprehensible blessing into my life in spite of me. A God who hears my heart cry and abundantly provides in ways that exceed my wildest hopes. A God who enters into the depths of my pain and offers up a living, breathing antidote that I never would have imagined. When I consider the grace gift of Clementine, clarity is less important. Trust, less difficult.