I spent a summer during college backpacking through Great Britain with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mandy. She somehow landed a drool-worthy summer job at Guinness. (She had to sign something that said if she ever saw the recipe, she’d never share it. She totally would have shared it with me.) I jumped from one bad temp job to the next — always saying “Excuse me,” when I was supposed to say “Sorry,” and always talking about the “El” instead of the “Tube.”
Mostly, we ate Cadbury candy bars and hung out at Sega World – a three story video game mecca in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. Yeah, we probably should have been at the museums, seeing History and Royal Stuff. But the blue tunneled escalators at Sega World were UBER COOL and looking back, we were a little homesick; at the time, Sega World felt like the closest thing to the shiny and spastic nature of America.
One day we chose to skip Sega World in order to explore London–huge mistake– because we ended up stuck in a very crowded hotel elevator. The power went out. The lights turned off. I had to pee. My stomach was growling. Mandy and me and all of the elevator people started to silently panic. Would we be stuck here forever? Then we began to size each other up. Would we have to marry and procreate and start a new society here in this lift? (Please note my proper use of the British word for elevator.)
Probably not much later (but what felt like 200 years later), the lights and power went back on. The elevator began to move. All of the newly-engaged elevator couples shouted for joy, erupted into applause, and immediately broke up.
Then this little boy– straight out of Oliver!–the shorts with tall socks, the vest and tie, the newsboy cap, the glasses, the whole works–grabbed his father’s hand, looked up at him, and in between sniffles and tears, asked this question:
(Please say the following aloud in a British accent.)
“Who rescued us, daddy?”
“I don’t know, son.” His father replied.
“I think it was God in Heaven, daddy. I really do.”
“Yes son,” all the elevator friends agreed. “It was God in heaven.”
After that experience, Mandy and I decided that The Outdoors was a much better destination for our exploratory day. We headed to a park to read and journal, and on our way there, we came across the cutest dog in the world. A salt and pepper Schnauzer, I think. He had a leash dangling behind him and had clearly run away from his owner. In my memory he’s wearing a little plaid beret and a teeny tiny Lochness monster tshirt. (But that might have actually been me.)
We started to pet this adorable dog, when his owner appeared out of nowhere, screaming like a banshee, “Don’t pet him! Don’t pet my dog!”
Unfortunately, the dog owner’s Scottish accent is my favorite accent ever, so I didn’t really pay attention to the words coming out of her mouth. I just sort of goofily grinned at her as she yelled at us. When she came closer, I finally made sense of what she was saying.
(Please say the following aloud in a Scottish accent.)
“Don’t pet my dog. He’s got shite all over his face.”
One moment God’s face was shining through the most precious boy in Great Britain. The next moment I was running to the loo to scrub dog poo off my hands.
If I have anything to say about life — and I don’t have much — that pretty much sums it up. We constantly waffle between holiness and earthiness. Don’t we?
This is one of the difficult mysteries of faith to me. That somehow the fullness of Jesus fills up the whole universe and yet we still deal with with pain, shame, regret, grief, and loss — dog shite.
Ephesians 4 says, “What does, ‘he ascended mean’ except to say that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe.”
I’m thankful, in the midst of pain, to worship and follow a God who has known all — heaven and earth, ascent and descent, both/and. Pleased as men with with men to dwell: Jesus, our Emmanuel.
You are Holy, God. You are wisdom. You’ve gone up to heaven and come down. So you’ve seen and known, see and know, everything. You gather the winds in your hands and the wrap the waters in a cloak. You established the ends of the earth. Every word of yours is flawless — by extension, Jesus, as the Word, is flawless. On those days when the ordinary is too much to handle, be our refuge. Be our shield. Be our fullness. Be with us.
Rescue us when we’re stuck.
This first week of Advent, may you live shamelessly.
And if you’re suffering through some dog-shite days of your own, may you find extraordinary moments of faith in their midst.
Next week, I’ll be doing an Overcomer Christmas giveaway!