Monday, December 19, 2011

Looking Past the Stain

     I consort with some mighty amazing dogs....or at least their people. One such dog just finished her stint at the prestigious AKC Agility National Invitational. Only the best dogs get invited, a very small percentage of all the agile canines. My friend Danielle and her little Jack Russell Terrier, Dixie, were one of these elite agility teams invited to the national event in Orlando. I checked my Facebook page every few minutes hoping for updates on how Danielle and Dixie were doing. She sent pictures of the fun adventures they had on the way down, wandering beautiful Savannah, eating at fantastic seafood places, posing little Dixie in magnificent settings. I was so pleased that Danielle was making the whole week an adventure, not just the few minutes Dixie and she would actually be in the ring competing. Her wonderful friend and mentor Laura accompanied her, and there could not be a kinder more knowledgeable presence to be beside Danielle on this awesome adventure.
    The first Facebook post from the competition came in. Dixie had a clean Round 1. I cheered and told Asherel, who loves Danielle too. I had no idea how many rounds there were, but knew that Sunday was the day of the finals, for the dogs that advanced. This was Saturday, so I assumed there were two rounds, and then the finals. Later that evening, a second Facebook post came in. Dixie had been fast, but dropped a bar. I presumed that meant Dixie was out of it, since in all likelihood, the dogs that advanced had to have clean runs.  However, I was really proud of Danielle. I suspected that for Dixie to have been fast, Danielle had taken risks rather than playing it safe. Playing it safe wasn't going to win at this level, so I admired her courage.
     Late that night, I got a text from Danielle asking me to  encourage her, give her a pep talk.
     "She dropped that bar three jumps from the end. I just can't let it go," she said.
     I eagerly wrote back, sincerely filled with awe at what she had accomplished to reach this level.
     "You are never in control of the results," I told her, "But you can only be the best you can be at the moment. I love that you were fast and didn't hold back." I wrote some other stuff, including encouraging her to go get a huge ice cream sundae. She thanked me, and I prayed that she would indeed  be comforted with how well she had done at her first Invitational AKC.
    I had assumed she was done. It turns out she wasn't. She had two more rounds. Had I known that, I might have encouraged in a different vein. She did well in the end, two clean rounds out of the four. She was "smokin' fast", beating out all the other Jack Russells in speed. All in all, it was a very good first nationals for her. But I was berating myself now that I had encouraged her inadequately. I had written what I wrote thinking she was all done, and now just needed to be satisfied with the results and the whole picture of her amazing accomplishments. Ugh. I had not offered the proper help at the proper time to my friend.  I just couldn't let it go....

     The next day, I was reading a library book I had reserved months ago. A bestseller in a series, the brand new book had just come out and finally, it was in my hands! It glistened, hot off the press, perfect pages probably untouched by all but a handful of patrons before me. I sat down with a glass of red wine, and eagerly opened the book....and dripped red wine on the pristine, white pages.
    With horror I looked at the stain, and knew it was never coming out. What would happen now? Would I be thrown in jail and the key tossed into the muddy Mississippi? I tried to read the book, but instead of the pure,happy joy of reading the long awaited novel, I kept glancing at the purple stain, and lamenting what I could not undo. I would not like to share all the thoughts of how to evade the consequences of this disaster that leaped to mind. You would think less of me, and I don't want that to happen. I tried a little touch up bleach on the stain, and it did turn it a pretty blue instead of dark purple, but I could see that no matter what I did, the stain was not coming out. I googled "Getting wine stains out of new library books." You'd be surprised how many people were in a similar predicament. But the advice to all of us miscreants was the same, wherever I looked: "you are doomed." Many sites used a less family friendly word than "doomed." I decided to just read, and worry about what to do later, but my eyes hovered relentlessly on the stain.

   Danielle sent another Facebook post. She was on her way home. She said it had been an awesome experience, and one she was grateful to have been a part of. Her dog had not been perfect, but she was just one fault shy of being the top Jack Russell there! She had succeeded in moving on, I thought, in blotting the stain that had momentarily threatened to overtake the joy of the whole event.

     Of course, the supreme example of looking past the stain is God Himself. Though your sins be as scarlet, He tells us in Isaiah, I will make them white as snow.
     All sin? Even the awful things I've done?
     All. They will be blotted out forever; completely atoned for by the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus.
     I don't mean to argue...that is really great....but we are getting off scot free. Somehow that doesn't seem fair.
     It isn't fair. It is mercy. I know how you just can't get past your stains.
     You know...I have some rounds left to go. I might not run clean, Lord.
     You won't. Do your best and remember, I am cheering you on.
     I am grateful Lord. you have any extra heavenly stain cleaner that works on library books?

Psalm 32:
4 For day and night
   your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
   as in the heat of summer.[a]
 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
   and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
   my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
   the guilt of my sin.
 6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
   while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
   will not reach them.

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