It was the perfect morning for a run. A cool breeze bent the long grass in its wake. The early morning sun cast golden-pink light on everything it touched. I rolled out of bed, dressed, and laced up my hot-pink running shoes—my normal pre-run routine. But I did one thing differently on that summer morning. I called out the name of a chocolate Lab, hooked her leash to her collar, and headed out the door for a few easy-paced miles with my new canine pal.
When I was very young, a large dog bit me during a neighborhood block party. I can still picture stepping out of a hot tub and feeling the dog’s teeth sinking into the skin on my thigh. The emotional scars of that day lasted long after any physical evidence of the attack vanished. Large dogs made me uncomfortable from that point forward. “I’m not a dog person” was my frequent refrain when people told me about their pets. Even recently, I still went out of my way to avoid dogs, especially the big ones. A confrontation with a German shepherd while running left me shaken for weeks.
My dog aversion came with one major problem: the love of my life is a dog lover. My husband grew up with dogs and hoped we would one day have a dog to grow up alongside our children. I pushed back, reminding him of our frequent travel, the cost associated with pets, and the logic that we shouldn’t get a dog until all the little humans were house trained.
The truth was that fear kept me from being a dog person or even attempting to pet most dogs, let alone considering dog ownership. I was letting fear make the decision for me.
Life provides ample opportunities for fear to take over our decision-making process. We can’t predict how a new relationship will turn out, so we reject intimacy. We let fear of failure keep us from pursuing our calling. We fret over what others will think of our thoughts, so we stay silent when God is nudging us to speak. A fear takeover seems especially common in times of change. We feel set in our ways and fixate on all that could go wrong in a new, unfamiliar situation.
God has given us good fears of real dangers to keep us safe. The problem occurs when we live into our fear instead of into our faith. When we let fear call the shots, we’re telling God our fear is more powerful than he is.
Not long ago, we were asked to dog-sit for some friends. I was hesitant. I had no experience with dogs. Where would it sleep? How would it do with our chickens, our kids? Would it like us? Would the week be one of fear for me? My questions continued, but I felt a prompting to quiet my fears and say yes to this new opportunity.
That week was one of the happiest in my recent memory. I adored watching my kids cuddle and play with this gentle dog. We laughed when she repeatedly tried to swim in our small koi pond, barely larger than she was. I went from wondering where she should sleep to calling her into our bedroom at night. I felt safer with her on my early morning runs and walks. When her owners came to pick her up, we were all a little sad. We were also talking about getting a puppy of our own.
I would have missed out on these beautiful moments if I had let fear call the shots. I wonder how many other moments I’ve missed because of fear whispering lies in my ear. We can’t change the past or recover missed opportunities. We can, however, move forward, choosing faith in God’s goodness and plan rather than falling back into a pattern of fear. God gives us a holy gift, this one precious life. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days paralyzed by fear or grieving what might have been. I want to run with perseverance the race God has set before me (see Hebrews 12:1). And now, I want to run it with a dog at my side.
Lindsay is a happy wife and homeschooling mom to three kids. Whether she is reading, running, gardening, teaching, cooking, dancing, writing, or chasing hens, she counts it all as joy. Lindsay writes about this beautiful life at searchforthesimple.com.
Photograph © Matt Aunger, used with permission