All I was doing was sitting at Bruegger’s, reading a blog post. And choosing my top twenty short story contest selections. And eating lunch. That’s all I was doing.
Then I heard the woman in the booth next to me. As she talked on her cell phone, her voice was obviously upset. With my mind deep in my choosing and eating and reading (not to mention the clatter-chatter of employees and customers), I couldn’t hear all her words. What I did hear sounded ominous: death, casket. But the tone was clear. This woman was distraught.
That’s when the blog post I was reading slapped me upside the head. Not literally. Not even literarily. Laura Martin is a gracious writer. But she was writing about the epidemic of busyness that plagues our lives. Everyone claims to be busy, some legitimately so, but some have become too busy doing unproductive-but-oh-so-important “stuff.”
Call it life clutter. It’s all the things we feel we must do to have a fulfilled life that really, from an eternal perspective, are time-sucking, energy-draining vampires. You know this vampire’s sunk its teeth in your neck if you have to pencil in a night with friends . . . six months from now. It may take the form of noble tasks (volunteer work) or inane time wasters (fill in the blank). But if you don’t have some room for other people, particularly when they are in need, then it’s time to rethink how many commitments you’ve taken.
By the time I finished my first comment on her post, I felt that kick in my heart. Go talk to this woman. I thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t, which amounted to she’ll think I’m creepy and don’t I have to finish painting that piece of furniture in the garage? Cue the eyeroll.
She finished the phone call. I finished my work. Do it, do it, don’t think about it too much—
I walked over and started talking to her.
She owns two rescue dogs, both large, exuberant animals who have become too much for her to handle on her own. “They’re man-dogs,” she said. “You know, the type that guys have in their truck when they go hunting and fishing.” They can knock her over, and as a middle-aged woman, she’s afraid that she’ll break a bone one of these days.
She’s cared for them, loved them, and tried to find new homes for both. She couldn’t bear to keep them at the humane society, where the conditions are so overcrowded that the previously no-kill shelter has started to euthanize healthy dogs. They’ve had their photos on the news, when the shelter pleaded for people to adopt some of these animals. She’s tried every animal rescue group in our area.
No one wanted these two big dogs.
Finally, she decided that the most humane thing would be to have them put down. Or thought she decided. As an animal lover, her heart was broken. She needed comfort and help deciding what was the right thing to do. The vet had said that he would do it, but he didn’t want to. It was her decision, and he needed to know by a certain time that afternoon if it was to happen that day.
I’m not an animal lover. I am allergic to dogs, as is my husband, and our yard isn’t large enough for these beloved animals. I don’t know anyone who wants a dog. So this was not a problem that I could solve.
But I could listen.
I listened. I did my best to show comfort. And even though she said she wasn’t religious or spiritual, when I asked if I could pray for her, she let me.
When we parted, forty-five minutes later, she still hadn’t decided what to do. I’m going to call her and see what she’s decided.
The obvious takeaway lesson should be this: God used this to remind me to take time for others! That’s the obvious one, and a reminder that I needed.
But the less obvious takeaway wasn’t a lesson at all. It was God’s reassurance that I’m still hearing him. I’m going through one of those moments in life when prayer feels like talking to a wall, the Bible feels like the most familiar thing I’ve ever read, and church feels like a time waster. (When you walk out of the sanctuary and think, I could’ve had a V8, then there’s a problem.) I don’t go to Sunday school anymore and I dread the worship service. It’s all the same old issues that I’ve blogged about, plus some.
It has the effect of making me think I’m never going to hear from God again. A lie, but . . .
Go talk to her. That kick in my heart was so obviously God’s voice (to mix the metaphor) that I walked away feeling renewed.
At one point in our conversation, the woman looked at me. “I wonder if God or the universe or whoever sent you here to stop me from putting the dogs down?”
I don’t know. But I know that God sent her to stop me from believing a lie. I’m still hearing from him.
Now I have to make time to listen.