My Labrador Retriever, Patmos, is a solid 105 pounds of love. He loves people. He loves other dogs. And he loves water. Oh, how he loves water. We are blessed to have a home that backs up to a little lake. In Lab language — we have a 12-acre swimming pool that he delights to use every day.
Last Christmas Patmos ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. We had noticed for about a week that he began each morning with a little limp that disappeared after a minute or two leaving him frisky for the rest of day. We figured that he had a little sprain he was working through. We were wrong.
One morning as he walked beside me he suddenly made a little yelp and his left leg hiked up next to his body. Our vet took one look at him and told me what had happened. X-rays and a physical exam confirmed the diagnosis, which was followed by some pretty significant surgery. Then began 12 weeks of very specific and intensive rehabilitation.
As soon as the stitches healed there was one portion of the therapy that was at the top of the doctor’s list — swimming. Patmos would limp beside me on the leash as we walked to a portion of the lake where he could just wade in. As we approached the spot, he would begin whining. At first it would be barely audible, but the volume increased as the distance to the lake decreased. Reaching the spot where he could enter the water I would unhook him and — did you know that dogs can smile?
Then into the water he would go and just swim around waiting for me to get around to tossing a ball into the lake for him to retrieve. A few retrievals at first, gradually building up to the point where my arm tired before his body. Hurrah for water-rehab! For Patmos, any bad day can be restored to excellence with a swim in the lake.
That got me to thinking about us human types. When we are having a no-good, terrible, horrible, very bad day where do we turn? What do we do when we have been wounded mentally, physically or spiritually? This is a fallen world. Bad things happen to good people. The wicked all too often prosper at the expense of the righteous. Is there healing available when we are on the receiving end? These are questions every generation faces. King David wrestled with them just like the rest of us. In Psalm 36, for example, David reflects on the bad things and bad people of his day. His is a relentlessly sober assessment, but unlike some of us he remembers where he can always turn when things get difficult,
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life...(Psalm 36:7-9a)
David described how the faithful can always take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. There we can delight in the ways in which our loving Father showers his blessings on us. Our Lord never promises to shelter us from everything that can hurt us. This is, after all, a fallen world. Instead, what God promises us is that he will never leave us or forsake us. He promises that he will walk through the good times and the bad times with us and that he will deal with our wounds and our deepest needs very personally. And, gloriously, he promises that, in the end, all will be well — because good will triumph over evil, life will triumph over death. And that is a fountain from which we can drink deeply and forever!
With all that this world and the flesh and the devil dish out to us, it is no wonder that every one of us walks with a limp. But as we approach the living water to which the Lord leads us, is it any wonder that we find ourselves more and more delighted at the prospect of what is yet to come?
The Rev. Mike Hesse, former senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church, is now retired and living in Destin.