#trust · shelter dogs · Spirituality


Do you have trouble with trust?

I have been thinking about trust since Keith and I babysat our new granddog Maisy over the holidays. Maisy is a sweet lab mix puppy who lived the first six months of her life in a dog shelter. Even though she was well-treated at the shelter, she had limited experience with much outside the walls of the building.

Maisy hit the jackpot when she was adopted by Adam and Jess a few months ago, and they have been extremely patient with her as she has adjusted to her forever family. Watching her come out of her shell has been fun. She has discovered grass, bushes, and sticks, and learned the comforts of sleeping on the couch and snuggling with her new people. She loves to go for walks, runs in circles around the trees in their backyard (which they call doing zoomies) and likes to visit the chickens at the community garden in Decatur.

I enjoyed introducing her to life in the country during her time with us. She was very curious about the big dogs we call cows and loved playing in the leaves and eating pinecones. She took naps on the couch next to Keith.

Maisy playing on the pinestraw bales.

But Maisy still struggled with trusting us completely. One of her phobias is going through doors.

Each night during her stay, we went through a ritual to get her into the bedroom where she and I were sleeping. I cajoled her in my sweetest voice and enticed her with treats, but she refused to come in.  

She stood outside the door and looked in, and I could see the hesitancy on her face. She wanted to walk through the door, but something scared her. When I tried to take her by the collar, she ran from me. I finally had to corner her and gently put her leash around her neck. Then she dutifully followed me into the bedroom and happily jumped on the bed and went to sleep.

Even at her own house, she is still hesitant about going through the back door to the yard, a place she loves. Something about doors trips a bad memory for her.

I don’t know what Maisy experienced in her young life that has caused this fear, but I can relate. I’ve had my own issues with trust, especially when it comes to God.

For most of my life, trusting God seemed simple. I grew up in the church and was taught that if I loved Jesus and was a good girl, I would have a happy life. Then when I was seventeen, my sister Anne died of cancer and my world fell apart. For years I floundered, not sure what was real anymore. How could I trust a God that would let this happen?

Maybe you have been in the same place. Maybe God has let you down in a very tragic and hurtful way. Finding out that bad things do happen to good people is a hard lesson, but one that we all face at some point in our lives.

The years that I wandered away from God were full of emptiness and confusion. I came to a crossroad in my early twenties when I realized I had to either make the decision to trust that God was with me and wanted what was best for me or accept that it was all bunk. I made the decision to keep searching after God.

I wish I could say that after I made that decision everything in my life was rosy, but that would be a lie. I’ve continued to have ups and downs and times when I have railed at God at anger. But I’ve never again said God, I’m done with you!

I still have not come up with a good answer as to why God allows suffering. But I’ve learned two things about trust:  it is a decision, and it takes time.

Over the years I’ve found that I am more content and peaceful if I’m trusting God to guide me and comfort me during times of sadness and uncertainty. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

Trust is like taking a step into the darkness and believing that we will not fall into a chasm— “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1). But like Maisy walking through the bedroom door, we are not sure if trusting God is safe.

What if we trust and God lets us down again?  

This is where the second lesson I learned comes in — trust takes time. Every day I see God working in big and little ways in my life. The more I submit all my ways to him, the more he directs my path. I can’t explain how it works, but I know that it does.

Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life sums it up this way:

“It is not that suffering or failure might happen, or that it will only happen to you if you are bad (which is what religious people often think), or that it will happen to the unfortunate, or to a few in other places, or that you can somehow by cleverness or righteousness avoid it. No, it will happen, and to you! Losing, failing, falling, sin, and the suffering that comes from those experiences—all of this is a necessary and even good part of the human journey.”

            Where are you in your trust journey? I pray that, like Maisy, you are learning that good things can be trusted, no matter what may have come before.