Thursday, December 23, 2010
— Thérèse of Lisieux
As many of you know, I received my Christmas present a bit early this year. I became the “Mommy” of a new puppy named Sherlock. He will be 3 months old when you are reading this, and is half lhasa apso and half dachsund. Of course we all believe he is the cutest, smartest, best puppy ever. We are thrilled with the new “member” of our family.
Although my husband has, the children and I have never had the opportunity to raise a puppy to adult doghood. We knew going into it that we were taking on a job, and quite possibly a challenging job. But we find that Sherlock is more joy than job! What you learn about puppies quickly is how spontaneously and completely they fulfill our Christian “vocation” quoted from St. Thérèse, above.
Sherlock is devoted to me with a kind of devotion that is seldom found in the human species. I can accidentally bang him with my foot when I walk past him, and he will look up at me with the same joy that he had the moment before, hoping that I am showing him some attention instead of an accidental nudge. When I let him out of his kennel in the morning, you’d think I was the savior of his small world, letting him out of a lifetime of imprisonment. As he waits while I fill his food dish, he seems just plain grateful that I’ve taken the effort to fix HIM a meal. When I come home from work, or come out of a room when he hasn’t seen me for a few moments, he greets me with purest joy, as if my existence is all he needs in the world to be happy. He falls asleep at my feet, and follows me from room to room just so he can be near to me. Love is the definition of a puppy, (or at least of our puppy, Sherlock).
Love is intended to be the definition of a Christian as well. What our puppy came filled with, it seems that humans have to discover (or perhaps it is re-discover). Love may have been basic to our personality when we were born, or when we were young, but in the course of growing up, so many of us have been allowed to, or in some cases, bred not to love. Humans have opted for many other choices of survival and found other ways to manage the challenges of life besides love. We have culturally determined that love is a weaker stance than power and aggression when it comes to managing conflict and stress. We have culturally determined that the individual should have priority over the interests of the greatest good for all. We have culturally determined that when we can’t have what we think we need, it is better to compete for it than to compromise for it.
But “competition”, “the individual”, “power” and “aggression” are about as far from the list in First Corinthians 13 as possible. First Corinthians’ love moves us on a path towards “patience”, “kindness”, “not enviousness or boastfulness or arrogance or rudeness”, “does not insist on its own way”, “is not irritable or resentful”, “does not rejoice in wrongdoing”. Maybe we all should be taking puppy classes?
Puppies have got naturally what humans have to work toward. But ironically, there is no greater need in any human being than to love and be loved. I have therefore made my New Year’s resolution, to the glory of God, and in honor of my new puppy, to being recommitted to the vocation of love! It's a first for me. I've never set such a commitment for myself before. I am going to be intentional this year about doing all things in love.
Think with me just a moment about what a a world full (a church full) of people like myself (puppy lovers, cat lovers, fast-car lovers, trout-fishing lovers, etc.) committing themselves in 2011...to Jesus Christ who is love, the only PERFECT love...would look like. Think about every decision coming out of a loving center in you, every action being based on love, every word being formed in love before it leaves your mouth. Think about how you would live with your family differently, how you would relate to others at work differently, how the world would be different and you would be different in the world if you lived in love with Jesus, and lived that out in the world.
Sound wimpy? No way! Love is the most challenging and hardest of all things to maintain faithfully. It takes the strongest of all people to live in a culture dead-set on changing all of our love into anger and hatred, to stand unswervingly on the foundation of love in all things. Love is guaranteed to be challenging, is guaranteed to break your heart at times, is guaranteed to cause you to suffer for the sake of someone else’s good. But love is also the puppy-like ability to always confidently, no matter what happens to you, come back again with joy (found in Christ) and the complete belief that love will win the day.
Let no darkness into your life this deep wintertime. Dwell in the warm glow of the fire of love! Be filled with love! Be passionate in all loving! Be hope-filled that love in all things will create a way to produce loving responses in others. It’s a challenge that Sherlock has placed before me, and I in turn invite you to join in. Love one another as Christ has loved us...as modeled to me this winter, in the love of a puppy.
Posted by Jennifer J Gooding at 7:09 PM