I can only give you my word that every bit of this story is true.
I woke up early on Saturday morning. I was planning to make the two hour drive north to my family’s farm to spend time with my parents, grandparents, and observe part of the harvest. I had a telephone call from my mom that morning while I was still in bed. Our dog, Charley the wonderhound, had died suddenly and unexpectedly in the night. He was only six years old and apparently his heart just gave out. I can’t explain this or reconcile this. I have talked about Charley here before: if you missed his story, it is worth going back to read. He was an important member of our family and will be sorely missed.
Now I understand that Charley was “only a dog” and that there is grief bigger and wider and deeper in the spectrum of the human experience. My problem on Saturday morning was that the loss of Charley just reached deep down and pulled to the surface a greater loss. That is the thing with grief, I suppose. It doesn’t just come and go, it leaves a trail of a lingering presence that is always there under the surface.
It has been a hard year, to be sure. Saturday morning, all I could do was look heavenward and call out loud, “really God? The dog too!!????”
Then I put both feet on the floor, got out of bed, into the car, and set out on my drive north through rural Indiana. I absolutely love a car ride by myself. There are certain situations where a long drive and blaring radio and a few hours worth of thoughts are the only medicine to begin to bandage the wound.
I listened to one of my favorite songs on the radio as I was driving. The lyrics say, in part:
To distract myself from the thought of metaphorical drowning, I decided I would keep my eyes on the lookout for red barns along the side of the road. For some reason I just love red barns. I wanted to look for something happy during that drive, so I drove and I drove and I looked and I looked for red barns.
The first red barn I came across, I had to stop the car and take a picture.
I felt like God had met me there.
That I was looking across a barren field in the cool November wind to see God staring back at me.
Sometimes God sends an angel. I believe on Saturday He sent a red barn.
That is what I choose to believe.
Turns out, God exceeded my expectations on Saturday. I counted 17 red barns on my 2 hour drive.
Every red barn I drove by, I couldn’t help but feel chosen.
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.”
I am glad I have the picture to prove the next part of this story. I arrived at my grandparents’ house and saw this: the only framed piece of art in their entire living room.
And so again I heard him whisper . . .
And then, in the midst of decades of rubble around that old barn, I literally stumbled on this abandoned sign laying flat on the ground.
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.