Present in his absence

Published 6:22 am Friday, May 4, 2018

My Schnauzer, Max, is standing alone in the backyard. Watching him, I wonder, “Why is that dog howling, crying like a little kid who suddenly realizes his momma is no longer standing right next to him, thinking she has left him forever, when in fact — she is just behind the clothes rack a few feet away?”

I frequently let our two dogs, Max and Baylor, roam our backyard, carefully keeping a watchful eye on them, for they are prone to wander.

On this occasion, I needed the fresh air, a moment to sit and breathe — for life’s responsibilities, and conundrums, and the nasty side of it all, can press in and on, and on, and on, relentlessly, suffocating the joy of life itself, if left to its negative course. The long view from my back step can bring matters into proper focus.

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My eyes drifted to the hills stretching beyond our property, behind our house, out there, in the near distance, just beyond the field, to those nobs that appear near enough to touch but far enough for a day’s hike. “Now, that’s what I will tell my grandson: ‘Let’s go on an adventure, Eli; we can do it; let’s cross the fields and get to those nobs, climb to the top and dance on them.’”

While Mr. Nob in the Distance continued winking at me, signaling his invitation to visit, Max’s howl abruptly brought me back to the present moment.

There Max was, standing alone, crying like he had been abandoned in the middle of the wilderness.

His brother, Baylor, had momentarily ventured out of sight.

“Max! Max!” I shouted, “I’m right here.”

He seemed surprised, as if he had lost all memory of my near-by presence, like he was lost with no help in sight, a marooned vagrant, left behind on the island after everyone had boarded the ship to leave.

Recognizing my voice, Max wasted no time; flapping his ears back, he raced to me.

“What’s wrong with you, ol’ boy? You know better than to think I would leave you,” I reminded him, rubbing his ears as his paws rested on my lap.

As I continued reassuring him, stroking his back, I thought of something I had read earlier that morning.

It was a quote from one of my favorite preacher/writers, Dr. Charles R. Swindoll. “God’s presence is not as intriguing as His absence.

His voice is not as eloquent as His silence. Who of us has not longed for a word from God, searched for a glimpse of His power, or yearned for the reassurance of His presence, only to feel that He seems absent from the moment? Distant. Preoccupied. Maybe even unconcerned. Yet later, we realize how very present He was all along.”

“You and I are not so different, after all, are we, Max?”

And cradling my dog in my arms, I carried him inside.

Contact David Whitlock, Ph.D., at or visit his website,