On a summer day, our dog stepped up to teach us a valuable lesson. Actually he didn’t step up, he ran.
A noise sounded we had never heard before. The linked smoke alarms in our home sounded off. All four of them. There was no mistaking their shrill. We had a problem. Smoke poured from our oven and filled the room. A dish had spilled over in the oven, and we had turned on the oven cleaner for the first time. We should have cleaned some of the spill first, we learned later, then turned on the oven cleaner. But hindsight was no help now.
I turned the microwave exhaust fan on above the stove, forgetting it was not vented to the outside in this house. It was little help. Meanwhile the smoke alarms continued their piercing warning.
Now that the cause had been identified, I tried to disable one alarm thinking it would disable all alarms. But the alarms screeched on.
In the midst of trying to mute the alarms we suddenly realized our dachshund, Mo, was missing. We searched the house, the basement, the garage. We could not find him. On a hunch, I walked behind a wall into our shower, and there he was. He had jumped up on a bench seat in the shower and was shaking uncontrollably. The noise was unbearable for him.
Trying to console him, I picked up Mo and took him to a room at the front of our garage where he often played with a ball. Nothing detracted him from going in that room. There had been too many fun times there. When we went into the garage, he always ran straight to that door. Inside he would be shielded from the noise, at least in part, I reasoned. I set him down in front of the door to reach for his ball, knowing he’d soon be scratching on the door to get in.
Instead, he ran. The garage door was open and he bounded from the garage. My attempts to call him back were woefully unsuccessful. Across the drive, across our lawn and down the sidewalk he ran. He turned the corner and kept running at full speed. And I ran after him. To watching neighbors, my pursuit was surely a mix of grave concern and comic entertainment.
Never have I seen Mo run like he did that day. He whisked along the ground like a champion runner, his little legs moving like blades on a fan. He never looked back. I never took my eyes off of him until he ran out of sight. I feared he would get to the busy road at the entrance of our subdivision; the outcome could be tragic. My wife, Mary, feared he would get into the tall corn on three sides of our neighborhood, where he could get lost. He rounded the corner at the far end of our neighborhood and ran into a construction area. Workers tried to corral him, to no avail. He ran out of the construction area around other homes. As I turned to follow him I fell down, but quickly got up to continue the chase. I only wanted to pick him up, comfort him, try to use our tight connection to assure him it would be ok. But the memory of the shrill sound drove him on.
When he turned another corner around another house, Mary was there. She had driven our car to the driveway near that home. Together we were able to corner him, pick him up and put him in our car. We tried to calm him but he shook frantically, consumed with panic. When we got him home with the alarms now silenced, he continued to shake for the next 90 minutes, even as we held him.
Once our concerns had been relieved, Mary offered a lesson from this exasperating adventure. She said, “Mo was running from the one who wanted to help him.” How like Mo, on that day, we often are. We run from the one who wants to and could help us. Talking with a friend, seeing a doctor, visiting a counselor or pastor who, if they knew our story, may understand and help us. We run from God, who loves us beyond our wildest imagination and is able to save us, forgive us, release us, direct us – things we never thought possible. Instead, thinking there is nothing to do but run or hide, we live with fear and uncertainty.
The image of Mo’s panic-driven run is etched in my mind. I pray that the powerful lesson we experienced that day – that we sometimes run from the one who wants to help – will last a lifetime.