Is anyone else disturbed by commercials about homeless dogs? Those with a heart let me hear you say yes. Upon hearing Sarah Mclachlan, the routine is to change the channel immediately while screaming and covering my eyes and ears. To be basic: I. Just. Can’t. When I see dogs without homes, I want to adopt them. SO… I did. Well, Gio and I did. A lot of couples have baby fever shortly after getting married. Me? It was dog fever all the way. We got two dogs within the first six months of being hitched. Our first dog, Muffin, came from a nice old lady who couldn’t take care of her anymore. Our second dog, Max, is a straight up thug we rescued from the pound, aka doggie jail. He’s the inspiration behind this post.
Max is a handsome, white, 12-pound, Jack Russell mix. When we first got him, he was completely despondent. He was crusty, smelly, squinty, and basically slept the first 5 days he spent in our home. We dug his Eeyore vibe though and knew whatever life he had before didn’t matter because we were gonna give him the best future we could! Well… here’s the thing about rescues… they’re unpredictable… they have a past…. it can take a long time before some of their issues come to the surface, as they were just in survival mode for who-knows-how-long before being adopted. After a couple of weeks we realized Max had the energy of a child eternally hopped up on sugar, and worse, he was not good with strangers or other dogs. Like, he may or may not have bitten my brother – sorry Keanu. Life with Max the past year and a half has been, well, a journey. We almost gave him away in fact. But turns out not too many people are interested in taking in a dog with his peculiarities. I want my money back, Sarah Mclachlan!
If you’ve read this far, you either love dogs like I do, or you see where I’m going with this. Let’s journey on! There’s something beautiful about rescuing, and being rescued. But it’s also a messy and unpredictable venture. And a lot more of the burden lies on the rescuer rather than the rescuee. Psalm 91 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, especially The Message version. Let me share a portion with you. This is God speaking:
“Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you…”
We rescued Max from the pound. Short story short: Jesus rescued me from a whole lot more. What I did, and am doing, for my dog, Jesus has been doing for me since before I was born – on a much larger and eternal scale. Let me share with you some things I learned about our Rescuer, from my limited canine experience.
1) He celebrates the small victories
The other day, Gio pointed out to me that Max has made some very small strides since we’ve gotten him. He had three friends when we got him: me, Gio, my mom. Now we’ve added Gio’s parents, one of my besties, a family friend and her son, my brother, and his fiance to his social network! He listens when we call his name and he actually comes to us. We can now take him on walks without him charging at bystanders or other dogs. And he taught himself a trick, which is jumping up into my arms when I motion for him to do so. These things might be dumb to you, but Gio and I were almost in tears as we looked at where he’s come vs where he was when we found him.
If we feel that way about a dog, how much more does Jesus celebrate our small strides? When we finally forgave our parents. When we stepped out and trusted Him for the first time. When we actually did what He asked and casted our cares on Him. When we shared our story with a friend in need. When we started to see ourselves the way He sees us.
It’s easy to get discouraged while, you know, being alive. Trying to be like Christ can a lot of times feel like this far off goal with one too many obstacles. For instance, ever felt like you were running your race and then all of a sudden you’re back at the starting line? Same. But listen to me. Jesus isn’t our accuser. He’s our Defender. He’s our Rescuer. We might not be perfect, but I feel that his heart is moved at all of our little victories and steps we take towards Him. He counts our wins without keeping track of our losses. He notices the sparrows, and aren’t we much more valuable than they?
2) Our worst selves don’t scare Him
Let me carefully choose my words. I literally don’t care what Max does – I love that dog to pieces. I don’t care if he just lost his mind when a UPS truck went by and totally destroyed my blinds. I don’t care that he bit my brother – sorry Keanu, again. I don’t care that he gets really excited to go on a walk and at the same time resists putting his harness on. Literally. None. Of. That. Stuff. Makes. Me. Love. Him. Less. Max “plops” his head on me when I sit next to him. He’s the cuddliest dog I’ve ever had. When he’s being insanely cute, Gio and I like to say he’s being such a “buddy.” Honestly, I love him because I know him! I know him in a way most people don’t.
It can be really scary when another person sees the worst version of us. It’s something we try to avoid until we’re absolutely sure they accept us. But Jesus? Let me carefully choose my words. He literally doesn’t care what we do – He loves us to pieces anyway. He loves your worst self. Am I being dramatic? Let’s see what Paul says about it…
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
See, all He wants us to do is plop ourselves down next to Him. Be close to Him. Know Him.
3) Finally, we are in good hands
I’m honestly ashamed that we once thought of giving Max back to doggie jail. Me and Gio get emotional thinking about it. Because we realized that if we did that, someone else could’ve adopted him, mistreated him, neglected him, or brought him right back, once they realized he had some issues. We feel really confident that we’re the best family for him, and we’ve seen that our consistency with him has helped to curb some of his dysfunctions. He’s got issues [don’t we all?], but we’re down to deal with those issues, even when it’s inconvenient.
Max can’t choose to leave our family, but we have the freewill to follow Jesus or not. And if we let the frustrations of our imperfections get to us, we might just throw in the towel one day. But I can promise you, you’re in the very best hands with Jesus. He didn’t come for the healthy. He came to heal the sick. It’s not by works we’re rescued – it’s by faith. Jesus is completely down to work through your mess. So don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re better off without Him. Remember when you were being mistreated, neglected, and kept finding yourself back where you started? You don’t belong there anymore. Stay in the best hands.
Want to see a fuller picture of our Rescuer? Let me share more of Psalm 91 with you…
“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”