I had been struggling with lots of anxiety and worries. I was worried about our son, Jamie, who was serving in Iraq and our other son, Brandon, who was struggling with school and job issues. I found myself so depressed I could barely function. I struggled to get out of bed, to take a shower or to do any of life’s other necessities.
That Tuesday was no different. I stayed in bed feeling like there was no reason to go on with life. Afraid of what the future might hold. What if something happened to Jamie? What if Brandon did not finish school? What if? just kept running through my mind. I felt as bleak on the inside as the weather outside. The sky was dark and grey, rain was pelting down and the wind was blowing in every direction.
The telephone rang. It was our pastor returning my call. He asked how I was doing. I began crying. I told him I was not doing very well. I was depressed and feeling overwhelmed with worries about Jamie and Brandon, our financial situation and questioning myself about why should I bother to go on living. We talked for a while and then he prayed with me. After praying he suggested I take the dog and go for a walk. I told him he had to be kidding, couldn’t he see how nasty the weather was outside. I gave him all the excuses I could think of why I should not go: it was raining, it was cold and windy outside, I was too tired, the list went on but he stood firm that I should go for a walk. I would feel better if I got out and did something. Nothing I said made a difference to him. He would not back down and I was too tired to continue arguing with him so I said, “Fine. I will go for a walk with the dog. I will call you when I get back.”
I put on my scarf, ear muffs, gloves and raincoat and then got the dog, Ozzie, ready to go. It’s not easy to get a rowdy German shepherd ready to go for a walk. I finally got the choke collar and leash on him and headed towards the car. Ozzie was pulling on me as we trudged through 3” of muddy water and I wondered out loud, “What in the world am I doing? This is so crazy!” Reaching the car, Ozzie jumped in while I was yelling at him, “Stay in the back! Don’t you dare get in the front seat!”
With Ozzie whining in my ear and rain pelting down I backed the car out of the driveway. I drove to Semiahmoo Spit. It’s a three mile trek along the beach and around the resort. Maybe while walking my mind will focus on the beautiful scenery and maybe I just might see a bald eagle. I parked the car and got Ozzie out of the back of the car. Thinking to myself about getting the walk over we headed towards the trail that led to the beach. The rain was still coming down and I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I just tell the pastor he was crazy and I was not going out especially in this yucky weather.” But no, I do what I am told. The leash in my right hand and Ozzie on my left side I began the three mile trek around the spit and resort.
Immediately Ozzie began pulling on me. I yanked on the leash and yelled, “Ozzie, stay here beside me!” We walk about five steps and again Ozzie pulls me. Again I yank on the leash and yell. Go a few more steps and yank and yell, walk a few more steps, yank and yell. Thinking to myself, “This is going to be longest three mile walk I have ever taken. It will probably take me three hours!” I walk through the parking lot, dodging mud puddles oozing with water. Ozzie keeps pulling and I keep yanking and yelling. We cross the road to get to the trail. We go about 25 steps and then do the yank and yell bit a few more times. The rain is really coming down now. Wow, there’s the half mile mark. I begin to think Ozzie has the hang of things; we can go for a walk but he needs to stay close beside me. The rain is picking up and the wind is really blowing. It is sure cold out here. I say to no one, “Why do I just do what I’m told? When will I begin to think and speak for myself?”
Good, we just passed the three quarter’s of a mile mark. My mind wanders. I find myself asking God “Why can’t I get out of this depression? I feel as miserable as this stinking weather. Why did I ever agree to go on a walk? Why? Why? Why?” A one word question, but what a giant question. I loosen my grip a little on the leash and once again Ozzie pulls me hard. Yank and yell, The pattern continues, we walk a little while and then Ozzie pulls and I pull back and yell to stay beside me.
Okay, there’s the one and a half mile mark. Yeah! Turning around the wind caught me and I thought “Great Scots! I am going to be one drenched puppy dog when I get to the car!” I start laughing, isn’t that funny, one drenched puppy dog. No, we were going to be one super soaked person and one very wet large dog. Continuing along the beach, the rain is coming down in sheets and the wind is whipping up.
All of a sudden I hear this voice say, “Ali isn’t that what I need to do with you. Yank your chain and tell you to stay beside me.” Okay, God, here comes your sense of humor once again. I remember the pastor mentioning that God has a funny way of bringing the things we need to deal with to the forefront and sometimes in ways that astound us. It could be a book that I am reading, something someone says or a note in the mail and there is God speaking to me and not yelling or yanking my chain. Just quietly saying, “Ali just stay close beside me. I won’t let you get hurt. I am always with you and will be there anytime you need me.”
Now we are at the two mile mark. Only one more mile and I can go back home where it’s warm and dry. Ozzie pulls hard and I think I am going to fall. I yank hard on the chain yelling, ”Ozzie, stay here beside me!” Wait, there’s that voice again. ”Ali don’t you think that is the advice you need to hear too. Stay close beside Me. Stay near Me, don’t pull away. Stay near and I will comfort and guide you.” “Oh God” I cry from deep within, “Why is my life so hard? Why do I fight things? Why do I hurt so much? Why can’t I just be? Why do I worry about things that may never happen?” “Oh no” I think, “There is that JUST BE stuff again. Just be, just deal with things as they happen.”
Whew the rain is coming down hard and the wind is pushing and pulling me in every direction. Ozzie and I continue to do the yank and yell about every 50 steps now. Maybe he is getting the hang of things; that he needs to stay close to me and we will get along just fine. I can see the car in the distance. I am so glad as I am soaked all the way through. My jeans are wet and I am cold. I realize that Ozzie has not pulled me for the last few minutes, maybe he is getting the hang of this, stay close and he doesn’t get yanked or yelled at. “Ali, Ali” there’s God calling me again, “isn’t that what you need to be reminded of right now. Stay close and things will be okay.” I am almost to the car and I look at Ozzie. He is walking so nice next to me. I am cold and wet and think, “Sometimes Ali you have to go the long way around the block. Remember what God just said, stay close to Me and He will stay close to me.”
I turn the car heater on as we head for home. Ozzie sits in the back seat, kind of mellow for a change, not even whining. It is amazing how calm he is. We get home and I let Ozzie out of the car. I take his choke collar and leash off and he runs to the door. He keeps glancing back, just checking to see if I am coming. Walking and watching Ozzie I ask myself, “Is that what I do, keep looking back to make sure God is with me? That my friends are still with me?” Again I have to remind myself God is always there for me.
Once inside the house Ozzie looks at me, waiting for his bone. He sure knows the routine. Come in from outside, sit by the gate and wow, a yummy chew bone is tossed his way. I think I am a little like that…I know the routine, I know the plan. Trust in God, talk to him, tell him how I am doing and his warm comforting arms reach down and surround me.
I need to call the pastor and tell him, “Yes, I think the walk did me good. I feel better, not even super tired.” He will laugh, not saying “I told you so” but thinking it. Then he will say, “You know Ali, you don’t need me; you need to turn to God. That is part of the trusting and resting in God, just being with him. He is there for you every step of the way!” I respond: “Yeah, I know. I just needed to go for a walk where I would not be distracted and could hear God talking to me. Thanks for encouraging me to get out and go for that walk.”
As I sit and drink a hot mug of coffee I find myself thanking God for walking with me today in the wind and rain. For ‘yanking my chain’. Then I realize that God doesn’t yank my chain or even yell at me. He is always right there, always ready and willing to listen. I end my thoughts with a small prayer of thanksgiving. Thanking the Lord for walking beside me as I walk through life, the good and the bad times, the times of joy and sorrow, for blessing me with friends who care about me but most of all for always being available.