How a Puppy is Teaching Me About God
Sometimes I pride myself in having a degree in Christian ministries or having several years of experience working in churches, yet nothing has deepened my knowledge of God quite like taking care of a puppy. This experience has reinforced the reality that I still have so so much to learn.
We got her a week after Christmas. It was a bit of an impulsive move on the Ober’s part. We aren’t typically known for being the spontaneous family that goes out and makes crazy decisions like “we should get a puppy”. Nevertheless, it happened and a week after Christmas we found ourselves driving to an amish farm, in the darkness of night, picking up a little furball.
She was timid at first. She wasn’t very playful, slept a lot, and didn’t make much of a fuss. We thought we had hit the canine jackpot by choosing a puppy that was basically self-sufficient. Then she got comfortable. Before we knew it, Hadley was chewing on everything and needing constant attention. I say constant as a bit of an understatement, because even as I sit here and write this, she is sitting at my feet and biting my toes.
The reason I say Hadley has deepened my understanding of God, is because of the way our relationship works. I’ve seen her on both good days and bad days. I’ve seen her behave and follow the rules and I’ve seen her in her naughty and nasty moments. (Several times we’ve tried to lay hands on her to see if we can exorcize whatever demonic spirit has taken our sweet peanut). And in the midst of the good and bad moments, I see her potential. I know she has all the skills and abilities needed to follow the rules, play well with others, and learn new tricks. I believe in her.
Having Hadley has also taught me a lot about patience. When I am standing outside in below freezing temps, waiting for her to find the perfect place to take a pee, I understand patience. When I am cleaning the floor for the umpteenth time because she’s gotten too excited once again, I understand patience. When I am sitting on the floor, trying to read and Hadley feels the need to sit on my lap and chew my fingers, I understand patience. (Might I mentioned that my dog is an EXTREME extrovert.)
And with Hadley, she gets rewarded if she listens. When she fetches her toy or goes outside or behaves when we put on her leash, she gets a treat. In fact, we have a whole bag of treats that sit near the door, and every time she behaves, she gets rewarded. I can tell her over and over that if she sits or if she goes outside, she’ll get a treat. She, however, has to be the one to make those choices. I can’t do it for her, but I LOVE rewarding her when she does.
I think the way I interact with Hadley is quite similar to the way God relates to us. Before we even know that we aren’t supposed to pee inside, God has invested in us, sees our potential, and is committed to seeing progress. When we are in our “puppy” stage, chewing, whining, begging, and housetraining, God continues to follow us around and clean up our messes, each time giving us a “do-over” and a chance to try again. And when I look at my little furball, all cozied up on my lap, chewing her toothbrush, my heart melts and I forget about all of the accidents in the house, the laundry that needs to be folded, and the messes that I’m sure will come. I’m overwhelmed with grace, compassion, and love for a little puppy who is a work in progress. To be honest, I wouldn’t want her any other way.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”