I wet my finger with anointing oil, and then I reach over and draw the shape of a cross on the top of Arlow’s head while he sleeps.
He wakes up, startled, seeing the bottle and my hand coming towards him and fearing I’m going to clean his ears. Which reminds me that yes, I do need to do that. But not right now. Right now is for putting my hand on top of his head and praying for his health.
And I don’t say words, but I don’t need to. I just present my heart to the Lord and He does the rest. With my hand on his head, I breathe out all the love and tenderness I have for him. I breathe out the fear I feel that he’s still not completely healthy. And I breathe out gratitude and awe that God gave him to me.
I reach over and feel something like swollen lymph nodes on either side of his neck. Can dogs get swollen lymph nodes?
I hear his raspy breathing as he settles back to sleep, the Ear Cleaning threat gone. He’s still sneezing and coughing during the day. No more throwing up, but definitely still battling something.
I told my friend the other day that there’s something about having to clean up throw up, and cuddle a snotty-faced boy, and choosing to draw him to me even when he smells like sickness, that makes me love him even more deeply. It grows and shapes into some new breed of love- a love that is, regardless of any other factors or the loved one’s “worthiness”, wild and untameable.
My friend kind of smiled at that, imagining, undoubtedly, cleaning up after a dog who’s throwing up every five minutes. Then he said, “I don’t know that would have the same impact on me.”
And I realized in that moment that he was right. It didn’t make sense. I started to backtrack and explain myself, saying, “Well, no, I don’t like barf or anything, that’s not what I mean…”
I’ve given it more thought today though. Why did such a miserable experience have that affect on me?
And then the whisper of the voice I’m so familiar with after these long months: “It’s because, in what you were doing for Arlow, you recognized Me.”
Yes. That was it. My heart recognized my “laying down my life” for Arlow as, ironically, life-giving.
That is an unreal, mind-blowing revelation to me. Maybe the song is right- maybe we really DO find our lives (our purpose, motivation, joy…) when we lay them down! Could it be that the more I deliberately and intentionally give my life to Jesus, the more life I’ll have?
Maybe the fullest, happiest life is the one that’s daily being laid down!
Laura talked the other night about hoping she looks like her Father. Maybe that’s the “sweet spot” of life- when we make looking like Him our top priority.
My prayer has so often been: “Help me know You more. Help me love You more. Help me want to be alive.”
And there’s nothing wrong with those prayers, of course, but now that the depression is improving and I have a little more energy and a lot more joy, I feel like maybe God is showing me the answer to all of those prayers is the same: modeling Him.
“Come, child,” He says. “Let’s go into this world together and be LOVE. Then you will know and love me more. Then you will rediscover your life.”
I don’t know. I feel like maybe I’m seeing a glimmer of truth, or truth in a newer, deeper way, but I am still mostly comprised of a lack of understanding. I feel like I am looking at this truth, examining it, turning it over in my hands, and then trying to stretch it to make it cover the whole of life. “Let me see how I can apply this to everything so that nothing hurts anymore and everything makes sense and there’s a solution for every problem!” my brain wants to say. But, of course, in a world designed by a God who is bigger tan our comprehension, the mystery of it will always exceed what we understand.
Which, I believe, is by design. A reminder that we don’t have to see the whole picture. Nor do we have to understand to obey. We just have to hear what God is saying to us in the moment we’re in.
After all, fullness of life isn’t found in understanding, it’s found in Him.
And so, Lord, I lay down my desire to understand. I lay down my desire for it to “make sense”. I choose LIFE- in all its messy, holy, tear-stained, laughter-filled, glory. I choose to be where You are. I choose to let You lead me and unveil my life as I love and serve You.
My heart recognizes how I love Arlow as hinting at how He loves me. I think that’s why I found not just life, but comfort, in tending to my boy. I felt like I was doing for Arlow what Jesus daily does for me, even though I’m often unaware.
How many nights has He bent low and drawn the shape of a cross on my forehead with His holy hand? How many times has He drawn me to Him when human instinct would be to push me away because I’m snotty-faced and stinky, (metaphorically speaking… I hope 😉 )? How many times has He come face-to-face with my messes and said to me, “I can clean this up.”?
Arlow doesn’t understand why he doesn’t feel well, and he doesn’t know if he’ll ever feel well again because he’s a dog and this present moment is the realest one to him. He doesn’t understand why I’m feeding him oatmeal and baby food, or why I haven’t taken him for a walk or to daycare. He doesn’t understand why I left him at the vet’s and they shaved part of his leg and poked him and gave him an IV. He doesn’t understand.
But he doesn’t try to. Nor does he grow suspicious and depressed. He just trusts that I am, in all my ways towards him, motivated by love.
In so many ways, God uses Arlow to speak to me. About sacrificial love, and what fuels life, and how sometimes, even when motivated by love, this life will hurt and not make sense.
And Arlow’s helped me see things more simply, too. For example, he’s shown me that none of the “whys” matter when you trust the one in charge. And none of the day’s hard stuff is any match for the joy of having arms who will hold you at the end of the day.
And so tonight, I will sleep- my dog snotty and snoring on my chest, my hand atop his head, praying.
And in the spiritual realm, though I cannot see it, I know Jesus is doing the same. I am settling down to sleep, resting in His love and goodness and presence. And He is here, His hand atop my head, praying.
Linking Up with: http://www.givinguponperfect.com/2016/10/real-autumn-life-works-for-me/