This past weekend, I spoke at a women’s conference on Growing Your Faith. I’m not sure how I veered off topic, but at one point, I told the story of Maggie (my once-prodigal Shih Tzu) and her big adventure.
The story always reminds me of the grace of God, His concern for the things that concern me, and the miraculous way He orchestrates answers to our prayers. After I returned home from the retreat last night, I snuggled with Maggie and her adopted sister, Mamie, and thanked God for the miracle of restoration He gave. The story’s still ringing in my heart, so I’ve decided to tell it again. (If you’d heard or read this before, please forgive me for repeating it.)
My empty nest loomed large.
The adventure began when my son was still in high school. My impending empty next loomed large in my imagination and I was worried. I couldn’t imagine how I’d cope, so I did what any sensible middle-aged mama would do. I made a plan to fill the time with “good.”
A high maintenance dog seemed like a good idea.
I resumed the practice of medicine, ran for alderman, and bought a high-maintenance dog. Maggie is an 11-pound Shih Tzu who thinks she’s queen and everyone should pay homage to her. She can dance like a ballerina, walk on her hind feet like a lady, sit, shake, high five, stay (sorta), and roll over. She can also sneak like a spy. I think she can count to three, but maybe not. I know she can also herd cows. (We happened on that by accident, but it’s a story for another time.) Maggie’s also one of the fastest dog-runners I’ve ever seen. She loves to run.
As you can tell, Maggie is a wonderful, multi-talented dog and I’m extremely fond of her. The office manager at our medical practice bought Maggie’s sister. She was equally fond of her dog. Over the ensuing months, we referred to the two sisters often.
Before long, we planned a “sister spa day” for them. We scheduled grooming appointments for both dogs and envisioned all the fun they’d have. The first trip went fairly well, but not too long after we started this, our great plan went drastically awry.
In an instant, the great plan became the great catastrophe.
Aunt Judy picked up Maggie at the clinic and ferried both dogs to the vet’s office. She opened the van door and Maggie immediately saw her chance. That fur-baby jumped out the opening and began to run. Maggie raced across the street and into a field, where she ran and ran.
Suddenly, she spied another field with trees across yet another street. This particular street was one of the busiest streets in town and it was the busiest time of day. Maggie gave not a thought to the traffic since she had never seen traffic. She wanted to be in the second field, so she headed out at top speed, dragging her leash behind her. Miss Judy and the vet’s office employees chased after her, desperate to catch up.
Maggie wanted to run, and she did.
Maggie, who had no idea about automobiles, darted in front of a car and raced across the street. The first car slammed on the brakes, stopping exactly on the loose leash. Maggie gave a giant tug, broke free, and kept going. She didn’t want anything to keep her from the next field of fun.
As she scooted across the second lane, oncoming traffic screeched to a halt. There was a three-car pile-up. Maggie barely made it past. She kept running.
When fun became a fiasco.
Maggie made it to the second field, where she raced around and into the tree line. There was not another sign of her. By that time, I knew about the “situation” and was already at the edge of the field, praying nonstop, calling her name, and searching for my dog.
Before long, patients and their families came out to help me look. Not a sign of the little scamp. I searched for her until I finally had to return to the office to see patients, then searched again after work until dark.
Quite a few people stopped by to tell me she would be eaten by coyotes during the night. I was not comforted. It was a good thing I wasn’t a missionary back then because I had some very un-missionary thoughts about those people who resembled Job’s friends so closely. I’m still grateful I didn’t express those thoughts aloud.
At last, the darkness defeated me and I went home without my Maggie baby. My mama lived with me at the time and we were both pitiful. We tried hard not to cry but did a poor job of it.
Maggie’d never spent a night outside before. She’d never been alone for more than a few hours. I imagined her cowering under a bush, cold, frightened, lonely. I felt lonely and afraid, too. “Lord,” I prayed, “Please keep my baby safe and tell someone how to find Maggie and help them to find her.” I remembered the dire predictions about the coyotes and added, “And please don’t let the coyotes find her first.”
The prodigal comes home.
Just after 7 am the next morning, my friend’s husband called to say they were bringing me a dog. My first thought was, “Good grief! I only lost my dog yesterday. I’m not ready for another dog!” There was something so cheerful about his greeting that I paused and asked, “Which dog?”
“Your dog,” he said. “I’m bringing you YOUR dog!” I could hardly believe my ears. “How did you find her?”
That morning, he awakened and knew how to find her, he explained. A former pilot, he used aerial photos to examine the area. The maps showed an old shed in the woods. He and his wife drove to the spot, and she walked down the path, straight to the little shed.
Maggie was seated on an old mattress. There was no leaf litter in her fur, so she may have been there the entire time, waiting for her rescuers. She was stinky from the mattress, but unharmed. My fur-baby was safe.
To this day, when I look at that dear man, I always think, “the seeker and saver of lost dogs.” I will never forget how the answer to my prayer came from the most unexpected place. I believe my hero’s plan was divinely inspired and a direct answer to prayer.
Prodigals are more plentiful than they should be.
Dozens of people prayed, searched, and offered comfort to me. Maggie’s rescue was an all-out effort, and it still delights me. Every time she snuggles in my lap, gratitude fills me again.
I never want to forget, though, that countless people have lost their way. For one reason or another, their desire to be free and their need to run from God has taken them where they likely never expected to be. Before it’s done, sin will keep them longer and cost them more than they ever intended. I wonder—who seeks for them?
There is One who came to seek and to save the lost, and those lost ones are a high priority for Him. He has a plan to find them, and it’s us. We are the hands and feet He’s appointed to the rescue squad.
Perhaps you are the very one who will seek and bring to safety a lost soul. How can that happen? When you know what needs to be done, do it. Just do it. My hero saw a need, recognized a solution, and did what it took to get the job done. We can, too.
Returning a lost dog is a wonderful thing.
Returning a lost soul is priceless.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10
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