I've prayed a specific prayer regularly since I was about 19: Be real to me. God has never once failed to answer that prayer. And he always answers it quickly.
I was blessed last week to spend a week in the wilderness with God. Cut off from the trappings and distractions of every day life, I pressed in with 15 other women who were on the same Quest as I: the quest to seek God, and know Him intimately. It was amazing. A.MAY.ZING.
Early in the week, I was tasked with spending the day outdoors with God. We were fasting from both food and from speaking, and the purpose was to be quiet and still and hear God's voice. At one point in the day, I was to take a hike across this expansive Texas ranch land and look for God in His beautiful creation. I'd already spent the morning on the bank of a river at the edge of the Hill Country and West Texas, and I'd been battling some pretty ugly business internally. I wasn't in a good place spiritually. Reluctantly, I uttered that familiar prayer - be real to me - then headed up from the river to high ground. At the top of the bluff, I was met on the road by a small dog: short legs, stocky build, beagle face. I'm not a dog person, and his presence on the road annoyed me, so I ignored him and kept walking. The dog whimpered, and I thought, "Shoot. I've hurts its feelings." But I walked on. Soon, he was in front of me, underfoot. I literally couldn't walk without tripping over this dumb dog. I had no choice but to bend down and scratch his ears, hoping that this would be enough and he'd leave me the heck alone.
I continued to walk, and the dog continued to accompany me. I decided to test the dog, so I stopped. He stopped with me. I walked faster, and he did too. I broke into a run, and he kept my pace. I wandered off the trail, and he climbed over cacti and through briars to stay with me. I slid down a muddy slope while trying to cross a stream, and he followed me.
Exhausted, I spotted a huge boulder and decided to stop and rest. I threw my pack down on the rock, along with the camp chair I'd been hauling and the blanket I'd used to keep warm all morning. Then I sat down on the boulder. The dog paced around at my feet, whimpering. He kept standing on his back legs, eager to jump up beside me, but my stuff was in his way.
Make room for me, He said.
So I did. I tossed my gear aside and up He came, tail wagging. He climbed up in my lap and put His wet paws on my chest. I loved on that dog for 10 minutes. Then He jumped down and began chasing gnats and rolling around in the grass. I lingered for a very long time. When I thought our visit was over, I continued on my walk.
But it wasn't over. The dog stayed beside me. Sometimes He trotted ahead a few yards, but He always stopped and watched while I caught up. Mostly, He walked beside me. We went on like this for a couple of hours.
My next task was to find a place to take a nap. Finally, I spotted a patch of sunlit grass, free of rocks and horse manure, nestled in the clearing of a mesquite grove. I threw down my blanket and lay down. I knew the dog would continue on His way. Again, I was wrong. He lay down beside my face and kissed me. All over my face - wet, sloppy dog kisses. Normally, this would disgust me, but I relished it. I laughed my head off as He licked and licked. I couldn't get away from His kisses! I took pictures of us, and every time I snapped, He licked. Then He nestled up against me and slept. I slept, too.
I was resistant.
I asked Him to be real to me.
He pursued me.
He pursued me, even after I blew him off.
He was relentless.
God in a dog.
(It is not lost on me that d-o-g is God spelled backward. More on that to come!)