Lessons from my Dog

We got her Christmas of 1998 and named her Silver Belle. Sally and I weren’t crazy about getting a Siberian Husky but it was what our 16-year-old daughter had always wanted. And being the wonderful codependent parents that we were, we figured we could perhaps use this little fur ball of a puppy to entice Jolee into hanging around the house more often. So Belle came home with us that Christmas and life around our place would never be the same.

Besides all the usual adjustments of house training a puppy, we also acquired other new challenges. Belle’s soft white fur quickly took a life of it’s own, forming dust bunnies the size of Texas in every nook and cranny of our house and yard. As she grew into doghood, we quickly realized that no food could be left on any countertop space unless it was at least five feet from the ground. Cakes, cookies, steak and lasagna were all fair game if her big wet nose could reach it. We learned that any leather items were considered food to a dog. Belts and wallets were two of her very favorites. Then there were the souvenirs from far away places like China and Africa; who knew that she would eat videotapes and photo albums? She had quite a diverse palette.

But of all the things Belle loved to do (including eating and destroying), her all time favorite was walking her masters. As soon as she saw Sally or me putting on our tennis shoes, she would go berserk with excitement. It was all she could do to contain herself long enough to get her leash attached.

Recently, Belle has started slowing down. A tumor began to appear on her stomach that grew to the size of a grapefruit. But it hasn’t stopped her from wanting to go for long walks. Then early in April, we noticed her limping. She could hardly put any weight on her back right leg. Even still, she wanted to walk.

We’ve spent the past month loving on Belle and crying when no one was looking. The other day, I was up before dawn reading in my chair and she came hobbling in. It was obvious that she was in pain, but she just stood there with her leg trembling.  I encouraged her to lie down and rest, but all she would do was walk in a circle like she was preparing to land; she just couldn’t make herself do it. When she finally did make it down to rest, she would turn her attention to the tumor. She was constantly licking it. We would scold her. We tried putting a t-shirt on her or covering it with bandages, but she still managed to get to her wound.

As I watched her with tears pooling in my eyes, I thought about how much I loved and cared for my dog. I only wished I could convince her to rest and to stop obsessing over her wound. It reminded me of how God must love and care for me. I thought about the 23rd Psalm where it says, “He maketh me lie down in green pastures.” Even though I’m hurting and I’m tired, I still try and stay busy, but God wants me to rest.

Belle is at rest now. Sally took her on a long walk today and even let her off leash. When they got home, she knew it was time. She had licked her tumor until it was raw and bleeding.  The vet had told us that as a pack animal, she would never show signs of pain, but we knew she was.

So, Belle, I just want to thank you for all the fun and happiness you brought our family. You taught us a lot these past thirteen years. You taught us that family was more important than stuff. You taught us to stop and smell, well, just about everything. You taught us no outfit is complete without a layer of dog hair. And you taught us that no one was above getting a nose in his or her crotch. You were the great equalizer.

Belle, take your rest. You were the best dog in the world and you deserve it.

WhatImLearning.Com

 

.Comparing

I have tended to live my life in a constant state of comparison. How do I measure up to my fellow human beings? I suppose I was hoping it would motivate me to strive harder, but instead it only bred envy and despair.

Everyone became a threat to me because they were seen as my…

.Competitor

Ultimately, it caused me to relate to everyone as my competition. I found this odd, because I had never thought of myself as “competitive.” (envision me making air quotes here). I have always used that word to describe athletes and jerks who stepped all over anyone who got in their way to the top. But I recently became convicted of this character flaw while reading Galatians 6:4, “Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others. (CEB)

 Therefore, instead of being a competitor, I am now seeking to become more of a…

.Companion

A companion is described as “one who accompanies another,” or “comrade; an intimate friend or associate.” That’s how I wish to see others who invest in my life and how I hope they see me. I want to accompany others on our journey of life together, sharing myself with them and encouraging them along the way. I don’t want my life to imitate some apocalyptic, survival-of-the-fittest contest where everyone ends up dead before they cross the finish line.  This isn’t The Hunger Games

Because of my competitive and envious attitude, I became very self-centered in my relationships. I always needed more than I was willing to give. I never felt like I measured up, so I became overly dependent on others to prop me up.

I became a junkie, scrounging for the next hit of a…

.Compliment

I found ways to manipulate others into telling me I was adequate, competent, “special.” I fished for compliments from anyone who would pay attention to me. But, I no longer want to be so needy for compliments.

Instead, I want to be ready to be a…

.Complement

While a compliment with an “I” is all about me seeking to fill a black hole of neediness in my life, a complement with an “E” is defined as “something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect.” That’s what I want to become! I want to fill others up with words of encouragement. I want to see relationships made complete and whole. I want to bring out the best in others and I want them to do the same in me.

I no longer want to compete, I want to…

.Complete

Experiencing Our Gethsemane

 

Read Mark 14:32-42 

             “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” These were the words of Jesus the night before he was to be crucified. He had taken his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. In his divinity, he knew what he was facing and was willing to do so out of obedience and love. But in his humanity, he wrestled with deep sorrow and distress, pleading to his Father to see if there was any way around this. There is a powerful scene from Jesus Christ Superstar that portrays this gut-wrenching agony of Christ.

Have you ever felt this way? Overwhelmed with sorrow? Perhaps even right now. Sorrow, fear, anxiety, worry, doubt, depression, addictions and disease can all have an overwhelming affect on us. Our souls can become overwhelmed to the point of death.

There was a time in my life when I could relate with the struggle between my human emotions and my faith in God. A time filled with fear, sorrow and betrayal. It was a very frightening and painful time. It was as if I was experiencing my own personal Gethsemane, if you will. These feelings left me overwhelmed emotionally, spiritually and physically.

It was during these dark days that the only thing I was able to cling to was the image of Christ in Gethsemane. The idea of the Son of God crying out in sorrow and distress, pleading to his Father to remove this cup from him, was profoundly comforting to me. Because it was at the moment I felt this overwhelming sorrow that I realized Christ also experienced overwhelming sorrow in his life. He knew exactly what I was experiencing. My God could relate to my human emotions because he was fully human in Jesus Christ.

So, my encouragement to anyone struggling with overwhelming sorrow is to cry out to God, just as Christ did. In your dark night of the soul, when it is overwhelmed as unto death, cry out in prayer. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions to God. He made you and gave you emotions to express. And he will respond with His presence. We might not always like his answers, as he doesn’t always take the pain and sorrow away. Christ still went to the cross. We still carry our’s. We still face death. But we don’t do it alone. God is with us in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Gethsemane literally means “olive press.” This garden was situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane was where they pressed the olives into olive oil. Large heavy stones were laid on top of the tender olives to extract the precious oil from them. As we contemplate this process, it’s interesting to note that this must have been similar to what Christ felt that night in Gethsemane. It was as if Christ was being pressed by the heavy stone of our sins, extracting his precious sweat and blood for each of us.

Olive oil has hundreds of uses today, just as it did back in the first century; everything from cooking and nourishment, to medicine and religious ritual, and even illuminating lamps. This precious oil was an essential part of life for those who lived in the Mediterranean region.

When you face your Gethsemane, as dark and painful as it is, I pray that you will begin to see the precious oil that’s being extracted from you, even now. In the Bible, oil is often used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7 Christ explained to his disciples that he had to die in order for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to come to us. And it’s the same Holy Spirit that bears fruit in us as we face the overwhelming sorrows and challenges in life. When we feel the heavy stones of life pressing down on us, we can often discover that the Holy Spirit is extracting the precious oil of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in us and from us.

So take heart friends, we can gain strength through our own personal Gethsemane, because our Lord suffered first. In his death, he sent the Holy Comforter to be with us during our trials. We have a God who knows what it’s like to experience sorrow, distress and betrayal. Let’s take comfort in that and allow him to extract the precious oil that can then be used to heal and nourish us and those around us, and ultimately to be used as a fragrant offering back to him.