Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Finding God In The Eyes Of A Dog

Brazil is a unique and different place to be, especially having grown up in the states. There are the obvious differences, like how it’s 90 degrees but somehow the middle of winter (which is actually kind of cool – but to hot.) There’s also that whole, rain forest thing, that’s kind of cool too. And monkeys. I haven’t seen them but these people swear they’re here. You can usually hear them; just never see them. Why do the monkeys elude me!? I don’t like it. I want to see one. There are also the stars.

The stars here are incredible. You might be able to get this kind of sight in the boons of Kansas where the closest city is 100 miles from your shanty shack. I grew up in the country in Pennsylvania and even the sight of the sky there doesn’t compare. It was still somewhat polluted by the lights of the cities that were miles away. Even when you find seclusion from cities, it seems like you can’t get anywhere in America around where I live that’s far enough away from city lights to really experience the stars.

Last night, I thought I could hear the stars sing. It was really beautiful. Almost every night that I walk back to my cabin, I stare off into space and am just amazed at how it all looks. I simply began to sing the end of a song that I’ve been trying to write since Kona, a really beautiful song that I hope to record someday. But I just sang it and stared at the sky in awe.

Walking in the pitch black, with a light pole every 60+ feet or so that is dim anyways is intimidating but rewarding all at the same time. As I was walking to my cabin, I got to where I was about 20 feet from the door and in the distance; I saw a dog just sitting outside. I’ve seen this dog a number of times. It belongs to one of the staff living on the base. It recently had babies too. Very nice dog. It was just sitting there in the middle of the dirt road that runs around the base here. So I called it over. Without hesitation, this dog jumped to its feet and was at mine in seconds. It laid on it’s back and looked up at me saying, “rub my belly!” So I leaned down and began to pet the dog while I was still signing that song.

Then I made eye contact.

The dog and I just stared into each other’s eyes and the words; “hallelujah” quickly fell from my lips. Such a kind and beautiful dog. The moment made me smile and I really forgot about what else was going on with me, and just sat there, petting this dog and enjoying being lost in the moment.

Those moments are really wonderful, aren’t they? This little dog was able to bring a smile to my face by just wanting to be loved by me. Such a small thing, yet such a big thing at the same time. I don’t entirely know what was going through my head at the time. Maybe I was missing my dogs back home. Maybe it was nice to have something really want to be near me that much, or maybe it was something completely different.

Maybe, just maybe, that was God’s way of saying, “I’m happy with you.”

Of course, many can scoff and say that it was just a dog that wanted to be pet because it was lonely sitting outside and other’s can debate on how I can compare the acceptance of God with a dog that just wants to be pet, but you weren’t there. You didn’t experience what I experienced. It was something so small, and something so big all at the same time. Honestly, if I was on the reading end of this, I would probably be scoffing at it to, but I don’t think I had smiled like that, with real emotion in that smile, in a very long time. Not without help from a joke or funny movie or something. I was very content in this moment though. It was a comforting moment. Such a sweet dog.

Is this the kind of stuff we really live for? Is this the kind of event that God rejoices over? The small things that, to most, go overlooked and abandoned in thought and memory, but to some, have such depth and meaning that they’ve been looking for? I think that happened just at the right time for me. I was looking for it, praying for it, hoping for something like that to happen. When you go through a course that teaches on getting closer to God and yet still feel like God is somewhere off in the distance, moments like this are needed. Moments like that are the ones that say, “Look around, I’ve been here the whole time.”

That doesn’t mean that I won’t find myself wondering where God is again at some point. More than likely, I will. It won’t stop me from obeying and following though because truth is; I know that I’m just selfish and that God is there with me anyways. Sometimes, you just need a small reminder.

I really hope that I can take this moment for what it’s shown me though. Hopefully some of you can take it for what it was too. There are so many big things in life that are intimidating and frightening when you look at the big picture of it all. The future (which I’ve been worried about) and what will happen to us. Where we’ll go after this and what will happen a few years down the road. Will I have a job that I like and can pay off my school fees? Will I still stand up for the things I believe in? Will I find someone to love me for who I am? Will I still have my friends or will we have all moved on and lost touch? Does anyone else worry about these things or am I alone? Will I achieve my dreams?

There’s so much to worry about. I know because I do it all the time. I worry about the things above constantly, which I hate because at the same time, I could care less about some of these things. Why am I worried about my future? Is it because someday I want to have a family? Is it because my school loans are going to have to start being paid off while I’m still doing missionary work? Probably…that last one is scary to think about. My lack of funds is not helping me to feel very secure in a situation where I’m going to have to start paying off a few tens of thousands of dollars. I would love to keep doing what I am doing though. I have so much I still want to do after this. I don’t really want to just settle down and get a job. I want to go on tour again, this time, a long tour. Not some 2-week ordeal that starts and then is almost immediately over. I want to be on the road for a long time, living off of whatever we have and whatever kindness we find in people along the way. I also want to use touring as a platform to launch some ideas that I have. I want to serve the non-profits I believe in more, especially Invisible Children.

I guess it finally just comes to something rather simple. I want to fulfill and accomplish my dreams. I want to tell my kids and grandkids to chase their dreams someday, but not out of ignorance that most of us have been given through out the years. An ignorance that tells us to do it but has already concluded that we won’t succeed because we are so bogged down in this society by what we deem success and our dreams are usually what some would say are unrealistic. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be real. I want to tell them to chase their dreams and support them because my parents and grandparents supported me as I did the same thing and fulfilled my own dreams. I want to live the example that I’m telling them to go after. I want to have stories about my triumphs and my failures, but I’m okay with it because I still tried. I don’t just want to sit back, settle into an unfulfilled life that simply follows routine and slowly fade away into a hidden slavery. I want to live.

So what does any of what I just said have to do with wanting to hear the stars sing and petting this dog? If you’re wondering that, then you haven’t been paying attention. It has everything to do with this, because it was in that moment that these worries that have been weighing me down were finally lifted from me. Even now, I’m not worried about them. Having those worries fade, even for just a mere second, was worth it to me. I felt free. I felt alive. When I looked into that dog’s eyes, I looked into my own. Laugh all you want at that statement, but I saw a creature that is simply looking for it’s place and looking for love at the same time. Am I any different by what I expressed above? No, not really.

It took me about 4 tries to get away from this dog so I could go to bed. If I got up and started to walk away, it would run in front of me and lay down at my feet. It was cute. While I could have gotten upset, I didn’t. I thought it was really wonderful how much this dog just wanted my company and attention, and each time it made me smile a little more.

I don’t want to live a life where I take such small things for granted anymore. I don’t know how often I have left things like this go and simply pass by, unnoticed. Probably more than I would like to know. I don’t want to do that anymore though. I want to find pleasure in the small things that, regardless of it mattering to anyone else, matters to me – and knowing that it matters to me is all that’s really important. While I wish to live a life of a servant, being there for those who need me, I need to make sure that I’m not forgetting about myself in the process. I still need to make sure I am living my life as well. I need to take the time to see the small things and find my humanity that I loose when I bury myself in work.

I looked back and saw that dog one last time before I went inside. I stared at it for a minute. I considered going back and just sitting with it all night. I eventually turned around and went inside though, knowing that I would have to be up in only a matter of hours. I couldn’t help but smile though. I couldn’t help but feel warmth and love. I couldn’t help but feel God was near.

And as I closed my eyes for the night, I could hear the stars sing.

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