Last Saturday had all the markings of a joy-filled day. The sun was shining, I shed my winter coat for a windbreaker, and I was on my way out the door to walk to the neighborhood donut shop. The air smelled of spring and my spirits were high; and then the inconceivable happened. For no apparent reason, the neighbors’ dog attacked me.
The sweet dog, that once tried to climb on my lap and nuzzle into my hands, snapped. With absolutely no warning, the black lab mix threw herself at me. One of her front paws connected with my right shoulder as her aggressive barks brought shivers to my spine. Restrained solely by the leash gripped by her owner’s hand, my neighbor yanked her back rescuing me from what could’ve amounted to much worse than the scratch and bruise that now marked my flesh.
In shock, I assured my neighbor I was okay and made my way to the donut shop. Carried by muscle memory, I ordered my regular, a vanilla raised donut with sprinkles and a decaf vanilla latté, and headed back home. Inside the walls of my living room, trauma set in. With a shaky hand I texted my husband, who was up north helping my dad with a project, typing the words I had just realized, “It really scared me. I could have gotten really hurt.” Tears slipped down my cheeks as I replayed the terror-filled moment in my head, wondered what happened, and imagined what could have happened. With a restricted breath I realized, if my neighbor had lost grip of the leash, I could have been mauled.
At my church we have been studying the book of Luke. This past week Pastor Matt spoke about Luke 21:5-38, where Jesus warns His disciples that persecution will come to anyone who aligns themselves with Him. He talked about how this teaching was incredibly timely for the believers who first read the words from Luke because persecution was a reality they dealt with many times. Pastor Matt then proceeded to share a story about a woman from 3rd century Carthage, modern day Tunisia, named Perpetua.
During this time, the Roman Empire rounded up communities of thriving Christians to persecute them for their belief. Taken as prisoners to the coliseum, Christians had two choices – recant their faith by saying, “There is no lord but Caesar.” Or proclaim Jesus as Lord and be released into the coliseum where bloodthirsty crowds cheer as they are devoured by animals.
Perpetua, one of the Christians imprisoned for her belief, was given this very choice. In fact, her father tried to convince her to buy her way out of prison, to do whatever it took to walk away alive. But she didn’t. She refused to recant her faith knowing that by doing so she was calling the animals to devour her.
Having just faced an aggressive dog, this picture struck a tender chord. In my experience, the angry pup was not there for punishment. It wasn’t there to kill me; it was restrained. It belligerently barked its discontent, threw itself at me, but I was left with only a bruise. I wasn’t mauled, I wasn’t bitten, I wasn’t devoured; but I was terrified.
Perpetua’s faith in Jesus, in the truth that He is the king of kings, the one and only Lord, was so strong that not even the horrifying reality that ravenous animals were about to sink their teeth into her flesh and rip the life from her body, could make her turn away.
This got me thinking. Is my faith strong enough to call the dogs?
Jesus loves us so much, that He accepted death way worse. He sacrificed himself on the cross, the most inhumane punishment, for us. The Lord raised Him from the dead to conquer the evil one and destroy the power of death, for us. And because of this incomparable gesture, we get to know the Lord as our father, to speak with Him openly, and one day, live with Him in eternity. (see John 3:16)
In Luke 21:19, Jesus said, “By standing firm you will gain life.” Perpetua, and so many Christians like her, lived this out. And I want to, too. I want to believe in Jesus so wholly that, even if it means calling the dogs, I will stand firm.
My prayer is that this weekend, as we celebrate the work that Jesus did on the cross, we might praise Him, revel in the joy of the resurrection and more fully place our trust in Him. He is worth it.