I just saw a grown man trying to take a walk down my street. I say trying because what he was actually doing was being pulled down the street by two Siberian Huskies. He was leaning back on the bright yellow, canvas leads they were tied to and trying to dig in with his heels to slow the dogs down with every step, but it wasn’t working. If it hadn’t been for the man desperately trying to keep the dogs from running at top speed, I would have thought the dogs were undergoing training to pull a sled. They were joyfully running along at a good pace, noses to ground, enjoying their time on the 15-foot leads (I’m guesstimating at the length, but those leashes were long).
That’s not what was happening, though. Rather than the man walking the dogs, he was being pulled along by the dogs. The dogs weren’t completely out of control, but they weren’t in the man’s control, either. He was desperately hanging on, digging in, and only one stumble away from disaster.
Isn’t that a bit like life, sometimes?
Life can run ahead of us, dragging us behind. The fact is that we aren’t in control of our lives, no matter how much we wish we were. (Confessed control freak right here.) Things happen. “Circumstances” occur. Things and circumstances there is nothing in our power to prevent. When they are strong, sometimes those things—those “circumstances”—can seem to pull us along and keep us moving at a pace that is one misstep away from disaster. There is a very real possibility that a broken piece of pavement can send us sprawling flat on our faces and leave us scraped up, bruised, and bleeding.
Life can be like that.
But most often, life leaves us a small fragment of control in the form of choices. There aren’t many instances in life when we truly have no choice, no ability to act on our choices, no power at all. Our choices may be limited, yes, and there will always be consequences to the decisions and actions we take, but choices they are.
The man I watched “walking” the dogs had choices. He could have simply dropped their leads. He would have then had to deal with the consequences; the dogs would probably have kept going without him, and then what? He could go after them or simply give up. He could have made a different choice before the walk that I witnessed occurred—did he really have to take them for a walk? He had a choice—but it may have been a choice between letting out their energy through a “walk” and leaving them house-bound and (possibly) destructive. Could he have paid someone to walk them? Paid for a dog trainer to work with him and the dogs? Each choice would come with its own consequences. Perhaps he was the paid dog walker (who may soon choose another job). Perhaps he did pay for a trainer and still didn’t get that walking thing down. He had choices, made them, and acted on them. From my point of view, he was clearly struggling with the consequences of his choices.
Recently, I’ve felt a bit like the leads I’m holding onto in my life are walking me. Rather, making me run behind them. Those leads often have a lot more energy than I do, and sometimes it’s a struggle to hold onto them and keep upright. And the thing about walking dogs is that the more there are, the harder it may be to keep them from tripping up the dog walker and dragging him (or her) on the ground. My leads? I can’t even count them, honestly—there are my family life (or is that smaller ones of wife, mom, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, gardener, etc.?) and my job; there are those that are ministry-based (production team, theater group, small group) and there are personal pursuits (devotional life, friendships, health, etc.). There are days, weeks, months when all I can do is dream of letting one, two, three leashes just go.
When leads collide and overlap: I got to take a quick pic on the “red carpet” with my daughter, before my stint as a “co-producer” of a show for the theater group at my church, which really ended up being a glorified name for running graphics—one of the things I do occasionally for the production team at church.
Letting go, and facing the consequences.
Because there would be consequences.
Some I would never dream of letting go, but others? A girl can dream, can’t she?
Here’s the crux of the problem for me, at least. I may dream of letting a lead go, but after months of praying I honestly still don’t know which God wants me to drop. I know what I dream of dropping, but is that just me? Is that my selfish desire? That keeps me holding on, praying for God’s clear direction in my life. Sometimes—especially lately—it feels like I’m dragging further and further behind those dogs and getting closer and closer to tripping. I keep asking, but so far there hasn’t been a bright pillar of fire or large cloud in the sky.
I did get a star to follow, though. Turns out it’s been there for a while and I just haven’t been paying attention. I’ve been looking for something bigger, something brighter. It took a teary confession about what’s on my heart to a friend and her offer to pray with and over me to open my eyes to it, but finally God twisted my head around to see it. Or—in terms that will stop mixing my metaphors—God finally hit me over the head with a lead that was already dangling in my face and let me clearly see two others that he gave me and are already in my hands, one of which I’ve been neglecting. He didn’t turn one bright yellow yet and say, DROP THIS ONE, but I still have my hopes up.
Those three leads? Three things he has given into my hands, to be responsible for, beyond the “given” of family, for me? Those are the three I need to pay attention to now, to be faithful with. Along with letting me finally see them, God gave me a renewed sense of strength and purpose for them.
One of them is this blog. He prompted me to start that, to write and to share about him in January. So I did.
One of them is my book project. This is the one I have barely had a hold of since last fall, because of time. But God gave it to me, has blessed me through the process of researching it, has blessed others through that same process. I can’t let it drop; no matter how long it takes, I need to finish it because it’s part of the work God gave me to do.
The last one? It’s new. Not what I expected, since I thought for sure I would have to drop a lead before picking up a new one. But that’s one thing about God: He doesn’t think like we do (Isaiah 55:8-11), so things rarely turn out like we expect. The last one is to start a writer’s group at my church. Like I said, the idea’s been dangling in front of me for a while now and I’ve said, That would be cool, even mentioned it to some people who were very supportive, but then not actually grabbed hold.
Today, I grabbed hold and started making plans. And even though these plans are in the initial stages right now and the first meeting may be (will probably be) months from now, I’m excited. Excited to see what God can do when I run alongside him following his leads.
I won’t lie—I’m still very, very curious about how God’s going to work all of this out. Because I can’t see how on earth I’ll be able to hold onto everything, and the logical part of my mind tells me that, eventually, God is going to clearly tell me which lead I can drop. Then again, it’s not really an earthly matter when one has a heavenly perspective. And it’s not my strength, but his (2 Corinthians 12:9). And—if I don’t stand in front of him—he’ll step in and accomplish his work through and in me when it would be otherwise impossible, humanly unexplainable.
So dropping something to hold onto those other leads he’s given me? Yes, that would be my plan. But God is full of surprises.
For those of you who stuck with me through this blog post, thanks. I know it’s long-winded (which, if you’re a regular reader, you’ll probably realize I tend to be) and in that sense breaks the blog genre rules. Writing it has been a revealing, clarifying, and therapeutic process for me, and that feels almost selfish. But I’m hoping and praying that at least one of you will see something God’s trying to show you through this post, too. Every week when I write I hope and pray that this is the outcome—that God uses this to glorify him, to touch hearts, to encourage others.
I’m also writing this end note because I’m coveting your prayers. For the moment, the question of which or whether to drop a lead doesn’t seem as urgent as it did this morning, or as it has over the last few months. But I know the worry will begin to creep in again when I feel especially out of control, and I do still want God to give me clarity about what to do. I also ask that you pray that I accept God’s will rather than try to force my own, that whatever leads he has me keep and let go of I will do what he asks willingly and run behind those leads—his lead—wholeheartedly for him.
You may also want to say a prayer for the man with the dogs. He’s been down the street a few times in the past couple of weeks and things don’t seem to get any better for him. ;)