Our dog reminds me of God. Anyone who is familiar with my and Reggie's relationship would be surprised that I would go so far as to say that, but it's true. No matter how frustrated I get with him, he always loves me.
Earlier this year I saw the following post by Donald Miller in my Facebook news feed, and it's really what got me started thinking about it:
When I read that, my heart softened a little bit towards our dog who's nose is the exact same height as our dinner plates set on the table. No matter how many times I yelled at him or blamed him or ignored him, no matter how much I thought I didn't like him, he was always eager to lay down next to me and warm my feet. I don't have to do anything to get Reggie to love me more. He loves me no matter what. In fact, he hasn't met anyone he doesn't love.
Just like God.
I didn't always understand that about God's love. For a long time I thought that I had to do something to keep God's love, or to get God to love me more. There are a lot of good things a person should do. But those things should not be done in fear of loss of love. That's not how God loves us. He loves us no matter what. There is no amount of good things that will make God love us more. When we understand this, we do those good things because we are compelled, because God loves us and we love Him.
I have had a relationship with God since I was young. But a relationship that involves fear of losing love is not much of a relationship. A few years ago, I got tired of trying to please God. Life was hard. I was disappointed that God wasn't making it easier. After all, I was doing the right things. I was angry about it and, like a little child throwing a tantrum, I rejected what I knew to be right. God let me do that for a little while and then, like a loving parent, He intervened. It was painful. It was necessary. It was my come [back] to Jesus moment.
Before then, all the anger I had hidden inside of me was directed at our dog. And I had reason.
For example, he has fur. Strong 70% cocoa dark chocolate fur. Which is all over the no-longer-white carpet the sellers installed as cheaply as they could. His fur drives me crazy, it just won't stop falling out. Not crazy enough to vacuum, just enough to hate the dog for shedding and so revealing my floor cleaning faults to me.
And then, when Reggie would stand next to me while I worked in the kitchen? And he was salivating thick ropes of drool, hoping to catch a morsel? I hated him for being so needy and slobbery. Instead I would pretend I didn't see him and make sure any left over morsels went into the garbage, not his dog dish.
More than once I left food out on the counter. When I discovered it missing I had some very strong words for that dog. He should have known how special it was when I baked a homemade treat for the family, something I don't have a lot of time to do very often. He should have known that those granola bars were tied to my idea of success as a mother. It wasn't my fault that I forgot to cut them after cooling off, and left them sitting out at his nose level overnight.
When he would stand by the door and bark to be let out, I was angry at him for making me stop what I was doing to let him out.
Paradoxically, when he had accidents in the house, I was angry at him for not going to the door and barking to be let out. Oh! I was angry at him for the accidents! Poor accident-prone dog.
I took my anger out on the dog because it was more acceptable than taking it out on anyone else. I'm not proud of the anger I directed at Reggie. Neither am I proud of the anger I displayed towards God. I am deeply humbled by it, grateful that God loves me like a dog, forgiving me eagerly, wanting to have a relationship with me.
Reggie hasn't changed. He still sheds on the carpets and eats food off the counter that I forget to put away. I am the one who has changed. And it's God who has changed me. Once I stopped my temper tantrum and let Him wrap his arms around me, He healed the hurts that caused the anger.
"How do you know He's changed you? What's different?"
Well, among other things, I like my dog now.