The air was thick today, so thick it felt like I could reach out and cut right through it or lift it off my chest, heaving under its weight. Heat will do that, weigh down the limbs until it's like trying to walk in water. And I suppose one could make the case that our very sweat and the moist air together are a near kin to water, a second-cousin of sorts.
My first step outside this lovely Cape Cod-style house of our dear friends was into the haze of the late afternoon while those friends and Beve were off picking up a few things for dinner and Beve's much revered (in our house), much anticipated new bread recipe. The professor, RP, his wife, JP and I were here with D and ML's gorgeous, beloved, golden retriever, George.
George. What a magnificant beast this dog is. This closest-thing-to-an-offspring our friends will have, George is easy going, gentle and seriously devoted to his people. D, who is one of the funniest men you'll ever meet, tends to commentate for George like he's a sportscaster and George is the superbowl. It's clever and always entertaining. ML, while cutting up veggies for salads, saves broccoli stems, pepper ends, and other such delicacies, puts them in his bowl, and George comes running the way our dogs run for cheese. Yes, George is a vegetarian!
They love him, walk him, throw balls and treats for him. He lets them know when he needs to go out or is tired or being ignored by bumping against their hands, or--failing to get their attention--pulling on their t-shirts. When 'Daddy' takes a shower in the early morning darkness, George begins pacing, because it means D is leaving for the day, rather than 'telecommuting'. He waits by garage door all day long for his people to come home.
This is a dog I could love. This is a dog who IS loved. Wholly loved.
This afternoon, while his people were gone, George wouldn't settle. The folks in the house were the wrong folks. It just wasn't right, you see. Finally, J and I decided that he just needed to go out. We knew the routine. He'd go out, do his business, and come right back in. We stepped out into that thick-as-butter-you-could-cut-with-a-knife heat, and before we could get his whole one-syllable name out of our mouths, he was around the corner of the house and at full-gallop down the street.
I instantly took off after him. The professor and his wife came after me, but they were barefoot, and the pavement burning. I ran, trying to keep him in sight. At one point, as I called his name, he stopped, turned toward me, and I swear he practically thumbed his nose at me. He was hell-bent for who-knows-where, and we weren't about to catch him. J caught up to me, though, and we tried to stay on his tail. Our hearts were racing (only barely from the heat) as we began to imagine having to tell D and ML that we'd lost their dog.
R, meanwhile, was tearing around the house, looking for keys to the car, so our search could be more efficient. So when we heard a car behind us, J and I expected R to be driving it. (In this heat, the lovely neighborhood was as still and quiet as a ghost town, so a single car made a huge racket...or was that my echoing heart?) However, the car carried D and Beve. George had, by good fortune, providence or the hand of God, run straight toward his people coming home from the store. They blocked his escape route, opened the door of the car, and he jumped in as if that had been his intention all along, like he was saying, "Just coming to find you, and did you know those other people are still in OUR house?"
It took George about half an hour to stop panting. He had taken that run/trot in a long, fur coat, after all. It took my heart about that long to stop racing as well.
But it also taught me a lesson. I know some people who have tried, and even are still trying, to run away from their relationship with God. Away from their true home, so to speak. And even when they are chased by people who care for them, want their best, and call them on behalf of the One who loves them best, they sometimes thumb their noses at those 'chasers.' They don't know or trust. Believe, I guess, that these well-meaning, caring 'friends' know the way home. So the run away takes them farther adrift.
Or so it seems. From our human perspective, anyway. However, somehow--because this is how He works, what He's always about--they end up exactly where they were always on the way to. Right at the one place they most need to be. With the One they've been looking for when they didn't know they were lost. With the One who will open the door to them because they're loved.
Keep running, and you'll run into the Lover of you. That's what I learned from George today. Keep running and you'll end up back home where you ran from in the first place. It's what happened to George, and what I believe (and continue to pray) for the runners in my life.