A year ago ago this decade-old geranium was near death. I didn’t have the heart to dispose of it, so I nursed it instead, giving it a new pot and fresh soil, proper watering, and the prime sunny spot in the garage for the winter.
It’s been on my porch all summer, but today I looked up from my reading and actually saw it. It has more blooms than ever before. Half facetiously, I anthropomorphized my geranium. I was happy for it in a way that a parent is glad to see their child who has struggled so terribly finally flourish.
But this isn’t about my awesome, resilient, over-achieving
child geranium. Look closely at the picture above, and see what I finally noticed as I crouched with my camera, centering and getting the light just right. That’s my dog photo bombing my geranium’s fifteen seconds of fame.
She was waiting for me to throw a toy, as I frequently do from the advantaged, elevated level of the porch. She’s a border collie, a herding dog, bred to stay with livestock for hours and days on end. Patience is her virtue. Even her slinky posture as she waits is due to her breed: often cat-like, poised for speedy reaction.
I guess she was there in the yard, waiting in that position, for up to thirty minutes before I spotted her through my camera’s viewfinder. When I’d first noticed the geranium and stood to take its photo, at my feet was another of her Frisbees. She had obviously deposited it there before assuming her post in the yard.
She does this “waiting” both outdoors and in, anticipating my propulsion of any number of gnawed balls or discs. I oblige for awhile, then inevitably busy myself with chores or projects. An hour later when I finish my task, she is still there. Waiting. Focussed. Expectant.
Ponder this: She’s waiting for me, not another person. So I respond to her. I throw the Frisbee, kick the ball, let her in, let her out, take her for a run when she’s fidgety from inactivity. If she took up her post at the periphery of our yard for passersby to notice, to come play, to engage with her, I would respond differently. I wouldn’t stop to attend to her, I’d keep on keeping on with my own thing.
If she put distance between us and had her back to me, searching for someone other than me to respond to her, it would be futile for me to attempt interaction. If she were oblivious to my existence, it would be pointless for me to attempt engagement; I would be throwing my efforts to the wind. She would be heedless to my affection, devotion, love, direction, caution, discipline, or teaching. If she was looking anywhere and to anyone besides me, I would have no reasonable choice but to continue my day independent of her.
But she doesn’t do that. She waits for me.
Because she waits for me, I take notice of her expectations. What does she want from me? What does she need? She’s looking to me to engage with her, meet her desires and needs … so it is me who responds.
It is me who studies her face and body language. It is me who learns her idiosyncrasies, her behaviors, the constants about who she is. It is me who steps in to keep her safe, to redirect her bad habits, to train her. It is me who has a plan in place to guide her to her potential.
It would be a shame for her, and a shame for those who will share her life with her, if I were to turn away when she looked to me.
I have “the sky’s the limit” in mind for her potential. She’s only a year old, so she’s far, far from that now, but I don’t expect her to be there yet. She can’t be there yet. She still has much to develop ahead. I only expect her to progress, at the pace she can, toward her full potential.
I also don’t expect her to get there by herself. She can’t get there by herself. She needs my commitment to her, my patience, direction, repetition and consistent expectations. She needs me to provide opportunities to challenge her. She needs me to set her up for success. She needs me to understand that incremental successes rejuvenate, encourage, and motivate her to take on the next challenge. She needs me to understand that too many failures will convince her “the ground is the limit” instead of “the sky is the limit”.
I am pleased to act on behalf of my dog who looks to me, who waits for me. I am committed to her for the long haul, for her lifetime.
How much more, then, would our Father commit to people? I include every person on Earth — we are all his if we look to him, if we turn from having our backs to him to having our faces to him.
If we have all our lives thought him “fictional”, but one day decide to consider him as “real”, and if we genuinely look to him to respond, he will. He may require us to wait a bit, to separate those who are sincere from those who are disingenuous, but he will respond at least in proportion to our degree of expectation.
Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV): 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
If we give him more and more of our concerns and issues to address, he’ll respond even more — he is there to help as much as we expect him to.
If we give him all of ourselves to love, direct, caution, discipline, teach, transform, heal, rejuvenate, motivate, and fulfill, then he will respond beyond what we ask or imagine. With God, his hope and expectation for each of us is, “the sky’s the limit.” But we need him to get us there.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Isaiah 64:4 (NIV): 4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.