A big storm came through Halloween night. My husband had just left to go out of town, and I was banking on a quiet evening at home with my daughter.
Just before the storm began, our two dogs took advantage of a golden opportunity to charge past my legs as I unsuspectingly opened the front door. Off they went across the pasture playing together and blissfully ignoring my call for them to come back. They did stop for a split second to turn around and look at me, and then they kept charging ahead into the woods that surround us.
They’ve done this before (without permission, of course), but each time they made their way back home safely. They surely had no idea a big storm would begin minutes after their escape and drop buckets of water on us for hours into the night.
My daughter and I stood post for hours, one on the front porch and one on the back porch, with flood lights on and yelling for them to come back. I was hoping the beacon of light would bring them back in…but it didn’t. Our voices faded with the pounding rain and probably wasn’t heard much further than our porches.
There are no roads where they went, so I had no choice but to wait out the storm and hope they would be on the porch in the morning. There were several times I woke during the night with some random sound only to be disappointed that our fur babies were not sitting there whining to come in. Silence.
The next day as a friend of mine was praying with me over their return, my phone rang the second she spoke, “Amen.” The caller did in fact find the older dog, Moses, a couple of miles from our home. She was able to track me down by calling our vet and using the rabies identification number on his tag. I was grateful to go get him that afternoon but disheartened that our younger four-month-old pup, Buck, was not with him. Somehow and somewhere they separated on their journey. If only Moses could talk.
I spent the next couple of days taping posters to the nearby stop signs and knocking on neighboring doors with flyers in hand. We live in a remote area of the county where houses are few and far in between. There are literally thousands of acres of undisturbed land around us, that is of course, except by mother nature.
Being out here has made me realize even more than ever that water is a powerful force with potential for great destruction. The landscape of ravines surrounding us proves this point. You could drop a whole neighborhood in some of these ditches and even the rooftops would disappear. So, when Buck went missing, my mind instantly thought of the dangerous ditches with steep walls and raging waters from the storm.
Yesterday, I was resolved to go out and seek out my lost pup. The waters have already receded so walking the ditch was very doable. After a cup of coffee at first daylight and time spent thoughtfully stocking my backpack, hope led me into the trenches. I had charted my course the night before by downloading a hunting app that showed property boundaries and GPS coordinates using satellite imaging. With this app and my compass available, I was ready to go get Buck. I had dogfood packed and if I found him injured, I had what was needed to haul him back home.
Four hours passed, and after wading through sandy, wet creek beds I found the end of our ditch. Luckily, I had enough cell signal to see where I was at on the map and to know how to proceed. Our ditch was only one of many that fed into a much larger river bed.
I had been praying for wisdom and discernment as well as for protection, because I knew there were water moccasins in that ditch and I had just seen a coyote the day before. To top it off, pit bulls are prominent in our area and gnashing teeth had chased me back into my car by a not-so-hospitable pit the day before when I handed out flyers. Thankfully, all I saw was a drove of peaceful turkeys on my hike.
Nevertheless, when I started into the seemingly empty river bed, each step felt more unstable. About twenty steps in and red flags were waving on the inside. This is not safe. It’s like quicksand. Turn around. Whatever lied ahead was not meant for me to see.
When I finally made it back to the house, my neighbor who had joined in on the search of the surrounding area pulled up on a four-wheeler. I debriefed him about my morning and that I found no signs of Buck. He asked if I wanted to search another large ditch in the opposite direction closer to his family’s land. Although I was exhausted, I said yes. I didn’t want to leave this search with any regret.
For the next hour I repeated the same process but in a different ditch. I told my neighbor the course I’d take and where we would meet back up. After about another hour of this, I found myself stopping in the middle of the ditch. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. For the first time since Buck’s disappearance, I felt an overwhelming sense of despair coming over me. What I realized is that there are many ravines that split off of the few that I traveled. It felt impossible to search them all. There are thousands of acres for a young pup to encounter danger in the darkness of night and in a deafening storm. It’s a vast wilderness.
I stopped. The tears came, and I asked the Lord, “Am I a fool to keep looking?” I know some people must think I’ve lost my mind to be doing what I’m doing. By all appearances and by the world’s standards, the first 48 hours are the most critical to find someone (pup) that is missing. And we are past that point already. It’s been cold at night and more rain has sprinkled on us. If he has been injured, the cold surely would have caused shock by now. And what about the coyotes or vicious pits roaming at will? He wouldn’t stand a chance. And then there’s the random passerby on our country roads who might see a means to cash in on a dog with such a pedigree. ALL of these realities have certainly crossed my mind. And they circled back around to me in that moment in the ditch.
But what you don’t know are the things I’ve asked of the Lord. I know all these dangers. But I also know my God. Even if my pup was torn to shreds in the dark, I know my God could resurrect him and send him home. I know that’s a crazy thought for some. But don’t we serve the same God who brought life to dry bones and raised up Lazarus from his dead rotten stench-filled carcass? Why couldn’t God do the same now? The answer is…He can. I absolutely believe He can. I don’t need to eyewitness it to believe it. And so I’ve asked for it. But in my asking of a miracle I realized that there was a period of waiting, at least as far as Lazarus was concerned. Jesus wanted his body to be unquestionably dead so that His resurrecting power was unmistakable. You see, that way He gets all the credit and glory for such a wonderful thing. I may have to wait longer for Buck’s return.
In the ditch, I had a crisis of faith and couldn’t go any further. I wrestled with my pride and wondered what people thought of me. Was I a fool? I’ve been called one before for my faith. No doubt about that. All it took was a seed of doubt for the enemy to get in my head and tell me how irresponsible I was for letting this happen. It’s the same old story I’ve heard before…I’m not worthy. Yes, that’s the lie the devil likes to whisper in my ear. But thanks be to God that all of those lies were negated the moment they were presented. Jesus’s response in my soul was, “What about Noah? Didn’t he spend years building a boat in a place that had never rained? People though he was crazy. What about Abraham? Didn’t he set out for a land and not know the destination? People thought he was crazy too. And what about Moses? Didn’t he lead the Israelites to the edge of an impassable sea with an angry Egyptian army fast on their heels? The people thought he was crazy and not worthy too. But these were all servants who walked by faith and not by sight.”
It was settled. I may look crazy for still believing that Buck will come home, and that’s okay. In reality, it may happen, and it may not. God doesn’t have to grant my request. But either way, I can’t help but believe that it pleases God to know that I truly believe He CAN do the impossible.
I had to come to the end of me. I’ve done everything humanly possible to find Buck. But since I asked for a miracle, I have to get out of the way and let Him work. Even if it requires the dreaded wait.
God’s favor is upon me, because the moment I swallowed my pride and set it all at His feet, I heard my neighbor’s four-wheeler in the field above. That wasn’t even the route for him to be on, but I heard him and tried scrambling up the vertical edge of the ditch. I did slide down a few times but was finally able to grab hold of a small root near the top and hoist myself up the muddy embankment. I pushed through the thorns and at that exact point in the field he turned off the machine and heard me call out his name.
God will never leave us in a state of despair. His hope and His presence are the healing balm that keeps us moving forward in this journey. I do ask you pray with me that Buck returns home safely. And I can’t help but ask myself, and you too, “Will your faith continually take you to the ends of the earth and into the trenches regardless of what the world thinks of you?” It’s a question I have to keep asking so that I stay grounded. Perhaps you have a relationship barely holding on by a frayed thread. Perhaps you have a wayward child with a darkened mind who offers no hope of change. Perhaps you have an opportunity to pursue a new adventure, one in which God is leading. The world will surely tell you one thing, but what will God’s word and your faith in Him tell you? As scary as it all may seem, one thing is certain, God will be in the trenches with you wherever you go.
Thank you for reading this longer post and praying with me for a miraculous return. I believe in the power of prayer! (Psalm 86:17)
Keeping heart and faith,