This summer my family has had its share of both highs and lows. Without question the most difficult experience of the summer for us was watching our nearly fifteen year old cocker spaniel, Scrappy, go from health problem to health problem which finally ended in needing to put him down. He was very much part of the family, and my daughter, Mikaela, really did not know life apart from him. As I have reflected on Scrappy, and his place in our family, he really taught me a lot about life and ministry.
Recently I was reading in the psalms and was struck with this verse: “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land, and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3, ESV). I believe that all God’s creation has something to tell us and ways to teach us. My family has been through a lot in the past fifteen years while having Scrappy as our pet. I can remember about ten years ago going through a particularly difficult time and not always coming home at the end of the day with a good attitude. There were times I even wept and wondered if God was even paying attention. It was in that time that good ol’ Scrappy, no matter how I acted or what I said would be so happy to see me that it seemed like he would wag the tail right off his backside. Even when I yelled at him, he would just come up and lick me like I was the most important person in the world. There is no one quite like a dog to embody the words: befriend faithfulness. If I could have just an ounce of Scrappy’s faithfulness I think I would be the best Pastor in the world.
Then there is the matter in the psalm about delighting in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Scrappy was happiest and never more in sheer delight as when he was with the family. I didn’t matter much where we were; he just wanted to be with us. And that is exactly the thing that he taught me about going through those rough stretches of life – that no matter what was going on around me, no matter what the circumstances and situations I had to face, God was with me, and I could choose to delight in him in the midst of anything.
Over the years we learned to trust Scrappy as the family watchdog. He was actually the runt of his litter, and was really a wimp. Any feral cat could have beat him up. But no one knew that by the way he acted. Scrappy would bark the living daylights out of any stranger, or make a growling gesture toward the packs of feral teenage boys that would seek to date one of my three daughters. Yep, Scrappy was a keeper. You could count on him to secure the perimeter of the house, and guard against any and all danger that might be lurking about. One day we came home to find Scrappy going nuts. I couldn’t figure out what set him off. A few days later I was walking around outside the house and noticed that someone had tried all the basement windows, and damaged some of them, to see if they could get in. That night Scrappy enjoyed a steak with the family.
I know that I can trust the LORD. I know it, in part, because a crazy old cocker spaniel that God decided to throw my way for a few years on this earth helped me understand what trust is. God’s grace can sometimes be found in the most unlikely of places. Has God taught you things about himself, and about life, in unconventional ways? Through people you never thought he would use? In situations you would rather not find yourself in?
May we all learn together the enjoyment of God, as well as the nature of God, through all of life’s ups and downs.