when you thought you knew how to do this thing

Originally published Sunday, 29 November 2015.

My oldest daughter saved up money for months. She read countless articles online, visited the library for how-to books on raising puppies, and made notes in her special notebook. She deliberated over the perfect doggie name and analyzed hundreds of breeders to find the perfect fit.

And, we let her handle it. She had begged us for her own puppy, so we let her take on this responsibility, armed with months of learning and notes.

Her puppy turned out to be in every way, a real, live puppy – unlike the still pictures online or the excerpts in the books. Each day became a growing tension between what she expected and what was actually happening – the nights, the walks, the potty training, the obedience training.

And then, one day, her confidence tumbled. Her sweet little friend had barked at her through a string of nights, had worms, and was not potty-training according to schedule. Broken, with mop in hand and puddle on the floor, she cried.

“You know the worst part, Mom?” she asked. “It’s that I thought I knew how to do this. I really did.”

All I could do was open my arms, let her rest her tired head on my shoulder, and welcome her into the world of grown-ups – where we prepare ourselves, take lots of notes, and plan hard, only to face days of total vulnerability and lack of control.

If only this thing called Life were conquered by reading a few books, making some notes, and doing some research.

But, what happens when it doesn’t happen?

How do we cope when our confidence trembles, and we’ve maxed out our own abilities?

We cling. We hang tight to the promises we know to be true, and we settle in to wait until what we know to be true is proven true by His power.

If God puts our hands to a work, be assured that He won't leave us fumbling or failing at it.

That day, I looked in my girl's gray eyes and reminded her that we don’t ever really get this thing perfectly right, and we can’t expect it of ourselves. Praise God, we can’t control everything, not even our pets, and it’s far better that way. I tell her she’s doing a wonderful job, and we are so proud of her.

With patience, with time, with deeper trust and greater awareness of our own limits, we invite the Lord to perfect what we can’t produce and complete what we can’t control.

And, thankfully, even our fumbling and failing are Grace-covered and recycled into Redemption by His capable hands.