A little over 14 years ago a friend gave me one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received; a west highland white terrier we called Coach. If you are a dog lover then you understand how a dog is not a pet but is a member of the family. If you are not a dog lover you should probably stop reading.
Coach and I were joined at the hip. Just thinking about him would make me smile. But then last weekend he became fatally ill and I had to take him to the vet and hold him in my lap while they put him to sleep. It is an understatement to say that it was a very dark day and a brokenhearted week that followed.
To assuage my grief I have tried to concentrate on the things that I loved about him and what he represented to my life. Being a creature of God, Coach reflected his Creator.
Coach loved passionately. There was nothing lukewarm about him. When I would be working in the back yard and go out through the fence, even for a matter of moments, Coach would meet me at the gate on my return. He would bark loudly while throwing his head back and forth as if to say, “Where in the world did you go? You have been gone for YEARS!”
Early in the mornings Coach would scratch on my side of the bed and then jump up and press in hard against me to give me a morning hug. His love knew no limits.
God loves us passionately and without limits as well. He loves us so much that He took on flesh and died on our behalf. As Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” What does God expect from us in return? Simply that we love Him back. I saw a sign out in front of a church that nailed it. “God wants full custody, not weekend visitation.”
Coach accepted me…..period. I could come home in a good mood and he would meet me at the door with tail wagging. I could come home in a bad mood and have the same greeting. If I had been away for several days still he was happy to see me and if I was sick he would stay by my side. Coach did not condemn me. The only time that I could tell that Coach would be upset with me was when I had been at another home and he could smell other dogs on me. He would sniff me and simply walk away.
That quality in Coach also reflected his Creator. We don’t have to get good enough for God to accept us. The Bible says, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” God accepts us when we are in a good mood or a bad mood or when we are in any mood. God accepts us when we are doing right and He even accepts us when we are doing wrong, as long as we come back to Him like the Prodigal Son. God does not condemn us. The only time that we will be able to tell that God is upset with us is if He smells other gods on us.
What really surprised me after Coach’s death was how empty our home became. We still have two other dogs but that has not prevented our home from feeling like a mausoleum. I had no idea what a presence he was and how greatly he filled our lives. We are having to adjust to a new normal without Coach.
It is the same with God. We probably take His presence for granted and do not realize how much He fills our lives, but the Scripture says that, “in Him we live and move and have our being.” If we try to live apart from Him our lives would be very empty. But gratefully we don’t have to get used to a new normal without God in our lives. We have His promise that nothing can separate us from His love and that He will never leave us or forsake us.
There is a beautiful poem by Wendy J. Francisco that says it so well.
I look up and I see God,
I look down and see my dog.
Simple spelling G O D,
same word backwards, D O G.
They would stay with me all day.
I’m the one who walks away.
But both of them just wait for me,
and dance at my return with glee.
Both love me no matter what –
divine God and canine mutt.
I take it hard each time I fail,
but God forgives, dog wags his tail.
God thought up and made the dog,
dog reflects a part of God.
I’ve seen love from both sides now,
it’s everywhere, amen, bow wow.