I got a “rescue” dog last year. We are a perfect fit, because I’m a rescue, too. We have the same “issues.” Our early lives were scarred by abuse and we will never be quite like those around us. We have fears and needs that well-loved pups and people don’t seem to have. I saw the fear in her eyes from the start, flinching when I raised a hand for affection or discipline. I had to learn to speak her language, and speak it softly. It would take her three days of absolute dejection hidden under the table to recover from anger or a sharp rebuke.
And she learned to speak my language. I joke that she is a “service dog.” Like the canines they’ve trained to detect low blood sugar, seizures and other maladies, she can sense me crying from three rooms away. She runs to envelope me, all paws and tongue and intense insistence. She can’t fix the circumstances that made me cry, but her fierce affection always overcomes the desolation and self-pity I have pulled in around myself.
As I try to reeducate her, retrain her to feel safe and loved no matter what, I always think of God eternally doing the same for us. And nearly every day she teaches me something about the things God has been trying to teach me for many years.
Today was Lesson #97543, so far: Who I really am.
As I stood combing my hair in front of our bathroom mirror, she snuffled at my feet as usual. But today she tried a new move: she lifted her front paws up onto the counter beside me.
Then looked up at me, brushing my hair.
Then over at the mirror.
She took in the image of her own reflection right next to mine, like a photo. A look of mild surprise lifted her ears, and her eyes shifted back up to me.
I started to chuckle. Thought it was precious she recognized us there in that reflection.
But then she shook her head, discounted the image entirely. And dropped back down to snuffle the real me she loves so much. Trusted the love the real me has for her in return. Content. Not fooled. No longer surprised or confused. Content at my real feet.
Because she knew right away that reflection was not me. Nor her either, apparently. No. She “knows” the REAL us. And wasn’t interested a bit in that fake pair, once she dropped back down to the true pair, mingling feet and paws on the cold tile floor.
The lesson washed over me like a waterfall. I struggled to find words for the deep truths it revealed.
The first ones that came to mind were from scripture: “See no man according to the flesh.” Just like my beloved pet just demonstrated, God doesn’t want us to be fooled by the images from this fallen world, he wants us to recognize the real. That the abandonment and rejection or despair and anger we “feel” is an image, a reflection. That we are not the worthless losers trauma led us to believe. That the “real” us is His beloved child. And that we can snuffle at His feet like my pup does at mine, secure in that love. Willing to ignore the images and lies and half-truths that beset us at every turn in this fallen world.
That we can choose who to believe—what the world told us or what God told us. We are worthless, scarred, abandoned. Or beloved, holy, blameless, chosen by perfect love forever.
My beautiful puppy, flaws and all, taught me what God has been trying to tell me all along:
Forget about that “True Self” the psychologists talk about. You become who you choose to be; you aren’t some hidden shadow locked in a closet somewhere that you have to locate.
Forget singing “I Gotta Be Me” all day, too; it didn’t really do it for you, did it? But something will. Something yet to come. A white stone with a new name. Pure. Perfect. New. Forged for you alone by God alone. A new identity.
And no one will remember the old one. The dirty, stained, depressed, drunk, whiny, broken, ugly you, staggering through the wilderness. Nope. You’ll be there, you’ll be “you.” But like He meant for you to be all along…as if the world was not fallen, as if the devil hadn’t ravaged your soul. The person you would have been in the Garden. Safe. Loved. You will be a stunning star, instead of a surprised lemming.
Elegy for the Lambs
You are My child.
I will never leave you nor forsake you.
I knew you as you were formed in your mother’s womb.
You were born to know and love Me, to give yourself back to Me,
And I will lead you safely back into Paradise.
I am all you need.
See the little lambs snuggling around the manger in the Nativity scene?
Doing what lambs do.
Warm and safe at the feet of their good shepherd.
Trusting their shepherd to lead them where they need to go.
You are my lamb.
So precious, so frail.
Stay with Me.
If you are too broken for the journey,
I will lift you up and carry you on My own shoulders.
You do not have to change or “clean up”
or do anything but follow Me.
Life does not become easy,
but your soul becomes easy in it.
You are my child;
I cherish you, and teach you what you need to know.
You are not giving up anything but copies and shadows, lies and notions.
I am your father and your mother and your brother and your best friend.
You are pure and white and clean as snow.
Innocent as a lamb.
Because you are Mine.
Tell me everything in your heart.
Trust Me. Walk with Me.
No one can ever love you and understand you like I do.
You mustn’t expect them to.
I will be enough for you.
And you are enough for Me.
Please do not judge yourself, hate yourself.
The pain you inflict on yourself, you are inflicting on Me,
because I bear your sorrow.
Your trust makes me smile. So precious. Forever.
I chose you.
I am your loving father, not your fallen, corrupted, controlling one.
Trust Me. I love you with an everlasting love.
My lamb. I am God, your real Father
And you? Who are you, really?
You are My beloved Child.
I knew you even before you were conceived ~ Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation ~ Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake ~ Psalm 139:15-16
You are fearfully and wonderfully made ~ Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother’s womb ~ Psalm 139:13
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you ~ 1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could ~ Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect father ~ Matthew 5:48
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs ~ Matthew 6:31-33
I love you with an everlasting love ~ Jeremiah 31:3
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you ~ Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I carry you close to my heart ~ Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes ~ Revelation 21:3-4
And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered ~ Revelation 21:3-4
My question is Will you be my child? John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you. Luke 15:11-32