The Heartbeat
"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." – Ephesians 1:11 (ESV)

When I was growing up, I looked for four-leaf clovers. But I never found one. Then, about 10 years ago, while outside in summer, I said to Ruth, "My whole life I've been looking for a four-leaf clover and I have never found one." Ruth looked down, bent over and WHILE PICKING A FOUR-LEAF CLOVER (!!!!!) said, "You mean like this?" I was incredulous. How did she do that? Since then I have found a good number of four-leaf clovers…probably one or two per summer. When I find one I generally encase it in transparent tape and mark the date I found it. Our daughter, Esther, borrowed a book from me some months back and when about half-way through the book found one of my dated four-leaf clovers in the book.

But this year…ah, yes, this year…the terrible year no one will ever forget…this year I have not found a single four-leaf clover. What can I say? It fits the year.

Being a Christian, I don't believe in luck. I believe in what our nation's Founding Fathers called Providence, meaning a supreme and divine hand of guidance over our affairs. The apostle Paul, in the above quoted passage, uses the term "predestined" and then ties that predestined term in with the idea of God working "all things to the counsel of his will." So it is not luck; it is a sovereign God overseeing our affairs.

Last Sunday morning I was recovering from a very long day the day before: the wedding of our daughter, Esther, to Marcus Shand. That was a wonderful day (beautiful weather; great setting; wonderful service; great all around) that ended on a very sad note with the death of Marcus's dog. For many, such a death would not be very traumatic. But for Marcus, that dog was truly a "man's best friend." He loved that dog. Now, as Christians, what are we to make of that event? Unbelievers might mark it off as just a stroke of bad luck; those who are more superstitious might mark it off as an omen…a bad omen. But as Christians while we, like everyone, may ask, "Why?" if we are more mature Christians we will likely ask, "What am I to learn?" That is, "What are you trying to teach me, God?" The dog's death was likely tied to the fact that many people were feeding the dog during the reception time following the wedding. One or two meat balls might have been fine, but when the 20th person, with a smile, throws the dog a meat ball, the damage may be very real. And so it was. So there was a lesson to be learned about dogs and their appetites, and the wisdom of not feeding a dog from off our plate. But was there and is there something far deeper going on?

It is interesting to me that the death of the dog took place within the context of a wedding, where two people expressed their devotion and life-long care for one another. Years ago, within seconds of me saying out loud, "I love this car" (it was the first of 6 Toyota MR2s that I have now owned), a man in a gray van turned right in front of me, causing me to crash into the side of his van. He was extremely apologetic and his insurance covered the cost of my car's repair in total. But I never forgot that timing and since then have never said of a car, "I LOVE this car." Like…appreciate…that's okay. But not love.

And then I have thought of the bonding that likely came from the dog's death. I mean here were a newlywed husband and wife ready to head off on their honeymoon and their very first night was occupied by dealing with a dying dog, and then a dead dog, and then burying the dead dog. That kind of event would, I think, either drive a couple apart or bring them even closer together. We're all trusting that it is the latter. And if that is the case, then maybe only something as traumatic as the death of a beloved dog could bring that about.

But it wasn't luck…even in this most terrible of years. It wasn't bad luck any more than my failing to find a four-leaf clover has just been bad luck.

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