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Things God Has Taught Me Through Owning a Dog

These are a select few chronicles, if you will, of my different experiences and correlations with God and owning a dog. Bear with me, these are only metaphors for Truth itself, but it is a blessing to see God’s character in a new light, through man’s best friend.

Unconditional Love

This goes two ways. The first being my dog’s unconditional love towards me. Can they actually feel “love?” I don’t know, I’d assume not. Regardless, God is using his creation, this little pup that is under my care, to show me a little facet of how He loves me.

I will admit, I am not always the kindest owner. I fail in practicing compassion and patience at times, especially when my dog is not obeying me. When Buddy (that’s his name) decides to rip open the trash bag, even after I firmly and repeatedly yell “no,” my grace runs thin. I get mad and let his actions affect the way that I show him affection. I withhold the option of him sleeping in my bed. I don’t let him sit next to me on the couch. I refuse to play with him. All under the belief that he was “bad” and that means that he doesn’t deserve as much love. Now, granted, I easily forgive and welcome him back into my graces after a short while, but despite my ill-treatment of him, little Buddy still loves me unconditionally. He still wants to be near me, continues to lay his chew toy at my feet, and faithfully wags his tail when I enter the room.

In a way, isn’t this God’s love for me? I wrong him, I lash out emotionally, and what is it met with? A loyal, steadfast wagging tail. God is delighted in me; He is eager to make his love known and for me to reciprocate his pursuits. How can a love so pure exist? It’s as if Buddy forgets my insensitivity, and maybe He does, unconsciously. But so does God –willingly. He sees past the sin and imperfection, and instead chooses to see me like Jesus Christ, His perfect son. I am in awe. God is way more than a dog, let me be clear. His love surpasses all understanding, so to even compare it to an animal seems wrong. But creation points back to its Creator, and I believe that little Buddy directed me towards a renewed lens of my Lord’s love.

I mentioned there were two ways that this goes, the second being the way that I love my dog. I have provided all he needs – food, medicine, shelter – and even spoiled him with toys and treats. I show him my love by cuddling with him, taking him on walks, waking up early to take him outside in the morning, and even cleaning up after him when he messes in the house. I demonstrate my care time and time again. Do you think he can understand the depth, the amount of unnecessary sacrifice that I put myself through for him? No way. He’s a dog, he has a limited understanding.

I wonder, is this how God views us? Giving us everything we need for every good work, equipping us with His Spirit and Word, dying for us and defeating death – but can we comprehend the extent of unseen sacrifice that accompanies the blessings that we can see? My dog looks at a treat and thinks “Oh, my owner loves me,” but he doesn’t understand that when I stuff his flea medication down his throat, that is love. When I yank him away from a dangerous dog that he wants to take on, that is love. We look at a job offer or a new relationship or a fun-filled adventure and do the same. “Oh, God must love me.” The struggles and painful moments are God’s love, too. God gives us tough pills to swallow – truth – out of love, so that we may have life, and life to the full, at that. God allows our painful moments to bring us closer to our original design – to glorify him, even in weakness or suffering.

I wonder if God looks on us, humans with a limited capacity, and says, “If only you knew how much I love you.”

How Quickly We Forget

My lack of remembrance – both of the bad and good, what I have been delivered from and the idea of being delivered in itself – makes me return to where I began. If it is the bad that I forget, then I keep going back for more; I am left with the bitter taste of sin lingering in my mouth. I have tasted and seen that it is bad, not good, but I convince myself that it may have a sweeter taste if I try again.  If it is the good that I fail to remember, then I am left with an uneasy soul, constantly wanting more because I lack the practice and discipline of gratitude. I cannot fathom the life-saving grace that I have received because I am too focused on the giant before me.

I cannot afford to forget the good or the bad – they both propel me forward. Bad compels fear, good ushers in grace. Both are needed in my walk with God.

I was reminded of this today, as I took my dog for a walk. He picked up a mouse the other day. It made him sick, it didn’t taste good, and I forced him to spit it out.

A day later, the same rotten rodent lies on the edge of the sidewalk. I take my dog out again and immediately, he is drawn to it. With full force he runs towards the mouse that only yesterday caused him such pain and discomfort.

HE FORGOT.

In that moment, my dog forgot the poisonous effects of eating something that he wasn’t meant to consume, yet he was still drawn to it. Had he remembered the events of the day before, I can be certain that he would have avoided the mouse at all costs.

Or maybe not…maybe he remembered and, in that moment, the future stomach problems that the mouse would cause just weren’t enough to deter him. Maybe the temporary pleasure of the rodent was more captivating than the idea of consistent health. Perhaps it was the thrill or the pride of conquering something. I don’t know, and in all honesty, he’s a dog. Of course, he doesn’t have these complex thoughts.

But it got me to thinking, it is important to remember. God calls us to do this because he KNOWS that we tend to forget. He could perform a miracle and still, we would forget about it because fear or insecurity or pride or just plain sin seems bigger to us.

Even in the exodus, the Israelites witnessed the greatest miracle of all time – clearly the hand of God had saved them, redeemed them, and brought them out of slavery – yet as soon as they are faced with an obstacle, the spiritual amnesia sets in. They cry out, arguing that it was better that they lived in slavery –SLAVERY—than to walk in full trust through the path God set before them.

They wanted the mouse. God yanked the leash, guided them through the struggles of plagues and oppression and fear, and they still inched forward to the edge of the sidewalk, desperate for the same decomposed mouse.

That’s the other thing. I was so patient with my dog when he wanted to eat this dreadful mouse. I knew that it wasn’t good for him, I knew he wanted it. And as he lunged toward the dead rodent, chops wide-open, completely unaware of the danger he was putting himself in, I yelled, “No!” It jarred him, prompted fleeting obedience, but that was not enough to keep him from wanting to try again.

He lunged a second time. “NO” and I pull on his leash this time, forcing him to get away from the putrid animal. That got his attention. He started to walk back slowly towards me, I was beginning to feel relief. It’s over, he’s done with his mouse spree – boom.

A third time. He gives it another go.

 “NO.”

Yank.

We walk away. He can’t handle this kind of freedom.

I wanted him to overcome the innate desire in himself and choose to follow me back to the entry door. He didn’t. His jaws latched on to matted fur and a stringy, stiff tail. I had to physically carry him to the door and pry his mouth open. He was not getting the message.

And that’s how I see God working in my life. It’s patience amidst my lack of remembrance and absence of full obedience even when I do remember him saying “no.” God brings in reinforcements, still allowing me my freedom. He tugs on me, tries to prompt me to get back to the right path – the one with no mouse in the middle of it. And still, I return. He finally picks me up, sets me on solid ground, and still unconditionally loves me. Even if I eat the mouse, He allows me to suffer the consequences of my actions, BUT also nurses me back to health with tender care – all in hopes that maybe, this time, I will choose to remember the bad and the good.

Always Wanting More

I’m sure this is a common thing in most dogs, and possibly all animals, but when it comes to food, they always want more. Even if they are still chewing the food in front of them, the first sight of excess morsels overtakes them. I saw this with my small little dog, Buddy, this past week.

Buddy loves food. I can’t even put out chow for him to snack on throughout the day because he will devour it all in thirty seconds flat. Instead of leaving out a bowl of kibble, I have a feeding schedule for him so that he doesn’t gorge himself. Two times a day, I offer him his sustenance, at exactly nine in the morning and four in the afternoon. No more, no less; he understands that I will only allow him this much. It seems as though he has an internal clock when it comes to eating time; whatever I am doing is put on hold when I see his eager little head pop up. If I ignore him for too long, he will bark, jump on me, lick me excessively – he goes crazy if he doesn’t eat. He wants more. He always wants more.

I see myself in him, though. I am a recovering and repenting coveter, and a couple of bowls of food is never enough. Two servings of immense blessings leave me feeling entitled and discontent – craving more than what I can even hold down. It manifests in different ways. Sometimes I have a strong urge to just leave my home state and drive, adventure, get away from my mundane (yet good) life. Other times I find myself fulfilling my desires by online shopping, consciously spending money I know I don’t have in order to feel good for a short time. When tangible things fail, I know that I can at least want more in mind – daydreaming of a better day, a more exciting lifestyle, an ideal image of myself. My indulgent reveries, ungrateful clicks of the mouse, and insatiable impulses to do anything else – they all leave me feeling sick. Yes, the extra food tastes good, great even, but at the end of the day, I am only designed to have two servings of food. Instead of being content with that, I ravenously hunt for the scraps on the ground, the nasty trash can leftovers, and day-old crumbs on the dirty floor. I convince myself that they will fill me. They don’t. They make me ill with want, a disease of the heart that paradoxically eats away at me instead of me it.

Buddy is never satisfied. That won’t change, he’s a dog. They don’t understand that they can only consume a limited amount of food before they get nauseous. But I do understand that, and I keep it away from him for his own good. It is for his wellbeing that I say “no” to the extra food. God says “no” to me sometimes, and out of spite, I go and seek out the floor crumbs just to say, “Look, God. If you won’t give it to me, then I’ll just find it myself.” Indulgence and discontentment wear the guise of goodness.

 And then I get sick. I throw up all the bad after it digests and makes its way through my system. Yet still after my defiance, God cleans me up, nurses me back to health, in hopes that I will be content with my wholesome two servings.

Perhaps one day, my ruthless cravings will be completely transformed to that of an unquenchable desire for God, not the things of this world. He has given me every good thing and blesses me with more, even when I don’t deserve it. His presence alone fills me, His love alone compels me, His Truth alone restores me. How could I not want more of that?

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