“His leg is broken” came the official diagnosis. I had left the puppy play pen with all 7 pups bouncing around vigorously. I came back an hour later to find Niles lying still as the other pups rushed to greet me. I knew instantly that something was amiss. I quickly discovered that one of his rear legs was injured, so off to the vet we went. The only plausible explanation for an injury of this nature is that his mama must have accidentally stepped on him when entering the puppy pen. Over the years I’ve witnessed close calls as pups swarm to greet their mom as she hops over the guard to enter the whelping box. It’s by the grace of God that more injuries haven’t occurred. My mind busily processed the logistical layout of the whelping box, play pen and guards. I searched for ways to prevent this type of mishap in the future. I came up with nothing. Accidents happen. It’s a frustrating fact.
X-rays revealed a clean break of the tibia that will heal quickly and completely. The prognosis is good. Relief rushed over me as I learned that Niles was expected to experience total recovery within three weeks and would suffer no lasting effects. The challenge, however, would be keeping a four-week old puppy confined so that his leg could heal properly. On the cusp of experiencing enhanced mobility, this little guy was suddenly restricted to staying off of his feet for a few weeks. His leg may be broken, but his spirit is brimming over with desire to bound about, to explore his surroundings. He wakes to eat, potty and play with much regularity around the clock. And he wakes loudly. Sleeping in short bursts has proven to be therapeutic for Niles. He awakens full of energy and well rested, ready to seize the moment. I, on the other hand, am not responding as well to his schedule. Broken sleep has ushered in exhaustion and irritability. I feel my resolve erode with each passing day of sleeplessness. I wonder how people raise human babies. I can’t even imagine. And I’m too tired to ponder the thought for any length of time.
It’s a test. All of life is a test. How we behave when things are going well doesn’t exactly reveal much about our character. It’s adversity that breaks down our facade and illuminates what’s really inside of us. I’ve heard it described this way. If you have a cup of water and you bump the cup, water will spill out because water is what’s inside the cup. Likewise, whatever is inside of us is what will spill out whenever we’re “bumped” by the challenges of life. There’s nothing like a little sleep deprivation to highlight all that’s wrong with yourself. A journey that began with thanksgiving over a good prognosis was morphing into an opportunity for me to complain. A lot. If not verbally, internally. A steady stream of grumbling about everything imaginable was beginning to take root. I felt the shift in my internal atmosphere immediately. Peace evaporated.
I’ve fasted complaining on several occasions. You never really realize how much you complain until you make an intentional effort to cease all grumbling. Even the trivial gripes that flow from us in such a way that we don’t even recognize them as such. They’re the most destructive. A complaint fast is revelatory. I’m struck by the irony of it. Something that I electively abstained from on several occasions with fairly optimal results was the very thing that came gushing out of me when pressure was applied. The same old tired temptation to listen to the lies of the enemy and marinate in discontentment. I’m amused by the lack of originality on the part of my tempter. I’m less than amused that I fell into the trap yet again. All of life is a test. And I’m thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning.
It’s always a heart issue. Every lament is a reflection of pride rising up in our hearts, spilling out into our lives. A tinge of discontent settles on the countenance and before we know it our voice assumes a tone of disdain. It’s subtle, subconscious for the most part. Nevertheless, our murmuring ascends up to God as an affront that serves as a barricade of His blessings. Every irritation, aggravation and frustration is at the root a complaint against God himself. The language of satan. As we exhale murmurs with the breath that God gives, we unleash hell into our circumstances. And the effects of discontentment are exponential as we give vent to bitterness. Isn’t it interesting that our free will is relentlessly bent toward misery? I’m arrested by the thought. We lock ourselves up in the prison of animosity and blame God for our suffering. We sacrifice peace on the altar of discontentment. And then have the colossal nerve to rail against God for the harshness of life.
Niles has a broken leg that struck him out of nowhere. He was up and running one minute and wracked with pain the next. I’m overwhelmed with emotion as I witness the abundance of joy that fills this little pup. In the midst of a major set back, Niles maintains an optimistic outlook. He dives into his meals with a smile, he scoots around with delight to paw at his toys and he lights up when I talk to him. There’s not an ounce of disgruntlement in this baby. The absurdity of my irritability due to inadequate sleep is magnified as I observe the love of God flowing through an adorable bulldogge puppy with a broken leg. That’s God’s grace. It relentlessly pursues and meets us in the midst of our messy moments. And it flows most freely through the gentle, the humble. It flows freely through puppies.
Adversity is an open opportunity to be a conduit of discontentment or of peace. It’s always a choice. It’s always a test. May the love of God flow as readily through me as it does through bulldogge puppies. And may there be an abundance of puppy breath for all of life’s tests.