I’ve recognized over the years, though I still don’t get, that some people are simply not animal people. No judgment here, friends. I just don’t understand. So for you, maybe this story is not about a dog at all, but perhaps hope and audacious prayers and receiving the good gifts in your life without fear and a heart-deep exhaling thank you.
It hurts in the way of an ugly truth to say I struggled to believe God is a good Father who gives good gifts to his children – until she came.
I know I should know this after all this time, but somehow didn’t really. Honestly, I wasn’t aware how much I believed the echoes of a lie tucked far away in the nooks of my heart. Didn’t know that I was prone to renouncing God’s essential goodness all while saying, thank you, thank you.
Thank you for healing and forgiveness. Thank you for soup and clear running water. Thank you for these incredible daughters and this faithful husband and this warm house.
Thank you for life.
At age 21, on a short-term mission in San Francisco, I worked with a team to clean single-room occupancy hotel rooms in the Tenderloin District. I might have told you about that day before.
The room I scrubbed was filthy and frightening, littered with hypodermic needles, a mattress smeared with blood. Out the window a courtyard filled calf-deep with nasty garbage and spikes to keep birds away.
I scoured like my life relied on it, and I knew the holy that wends through suffering, of the need to plunge hands of light into dark. I felt a deep sense of partnership with Jesus – the One who never turned away from pain, who never allowed it to overtake him.
And I felt God rumble in suspended time that he did not hold a life of ease for me. This was something I already knew, but now I’d heard it from God’s own mouth.
Don’t get me wrong, friends. I believe with all of me in partnering with Christ in suffering, in being the actual hands and feet that bring the Good News to those who dying without Love and without Hope.
I believe in putting to death in my own life what does not ultimately bring life to receive the good of a reality wrapped in Christ.
However, the fatalism and fear I carried with me from that SRO was something else. For so many years, I’ve waited for something to drop: the sweetest of dreams, the greatest of treasures – some precious life to die.
Our family longed for a dog and rescued twice, propelled by the desire to provide a safe place, gather up a forgotten one like a wandering lamb. Three years apart, these dogs turned aggressive, drawing blood before my eyes, and we could not keep them.
We walked through loss and grief with our girls – something that has not touched them yet in the deepest of ways. And Michael and I kept the conversations going, believing that when we are brave enough to explore it, no pain is wasted.
In response to these losses, I heard, Sometimes this is what it means when you love broken things, and hard is the way of the kingdom.
True and true.
And still, for me, for us, it was a different kind of faith to listen to what we knew: that we could not stop trying, could not stop opening our hearts to furry creatures. In fact, we knew our family was not quite complete without a dog.
So we waited and took time. Michael and I researched and planned, coordinated clandestine meetings with “dog people” in the know.
We prayed to our Lavish God, our Loving Father. We asked for direction and for gentle and sweet and calm and eager for companionship and even exceeding our expectations. For the girls and Michael, and then eventually for myself, I chose to believe against my fears, trust that – in this, as in so many other areas of my life – our Heavenly Father is not only about the hard good, but also the sweet good.
The blessed good.
The blissful and tender and lavish good.
The padded paw, pink tongue, white fur, kissed tan like a roasted marshmallow good.
She is tender brown eyes locking and warm body curved against ours, and she is a gift.
She is puppy ears like mink and surges of joy and exhaled relief, and we say, thank you.
We throw her favorite toys and play hide-and-seek. We bring her on car rides and on walks to the school. We fill her life with lots of people and other dogs. We think about the places she’s not yet been – what will bring her happiness and grow into the dog she is to be.
She is redemption, even though we call her Clementine.
And I venture to believe this kind of gift is, too, the way of Kingdom come – the space between now and not yet. The reminder of Eden and foretaste of the day when humans and creatures will walk again in harmony with their Maker.
And when I pet her and walk her, train her and love her, I am not waiting for any shoe to drop. I am delighting in the mystery of this love and of our feet, finding their step together.