Four years ago, my family and I went on a vacation to the beautiful island of Aruba. One of my favorite memories was when we visited this beautiful church.
The church looked formal but had a casual air as the opened doors and windows invited Aruba’s ample wind supply to permeate the sanctuary. In the middle of the service, an onyx-colored dog wandered in and hobbled straight down the center aisle and collapsed his weary body on the altar.
Some church members smiled, while others acted like nothing abnormal occurred. What intrigued me was that no one did anything. The dog freely entered and quickly made himself at home. He behaved like he was treated, like he belonged. He had no idea that he was the only dog there or if he did, it didn’t hinder his rest.
During communion, the choir sang Rolf Louland/Brendan Graham’s “You Raise Me Up” in Aruba’s native language, Papiamento. “Por ti sere” means “you raise me up” in Papiamento. Never had I thought of it as a worship song to God and it was just beautiful!
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.
I AM STRONG WHEN I AM ON YOUR SHOULDERS;
You raise me up to more than I can be.
The grand finale that tied the series of events together and also cleared my tear ducts out, occurred at the end of service. The pastor made his procession down the familiarly traveled center aisle. The dog noticed, rose up and followed after him.
God combined a wearied dog and a song to lovingly remind me that I AM STRONG WHEN I AM ON YOUR (God’s) SHOULDERS. I drew joy just thinking about my canine friend’s example. If weary, hobble down and rest at the cross. At just the right moment, God will pick me up again and I can follow after Him. Rest and follow God’s lead.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
God surely left a magnificent impression on His daughter’s heart while in Aruba, through the least likely venue, an old broken down dog that enjoyed the breeze. I leave you today with the Footprints poem.
Footprints in the Sand
By Mary Stevenson, 1936
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
Look one more time at the statue of Jesus at St. Anna’s church. His arms are opened wide and remain open today.
Whatever you’re currently struggling with, I ask you, are you trying to figure it out yourself and carry the burden alone? Does it feel too heavy (too much?)? If so, what will you do? Suffer alone or boldly go forward (even wearily) and find rest in the open, available and comforting arms of Christ?
Steph’s writing has appeared in Proverbs 31 Ministry, P31 Woman magazine. Inher free time she can be found encouraging numerous MOPS group in the
northern Virginia area on the “Colorful Art of Friendship – Allowing
God to Paint the Masterpieces” and MOPS leaders on “Being a Bright
Steph can be found blogging at www.encouragedinheart.org or on Facebook at Stephanie Fink or on her Facebook page Encouraged in Heart- Stephanie Fink. She loves big hair, big cups of coffee and big bear hugs.