We’re on day six of vacation and I’m officially in dog withdrawal. I so miss our fur babies I’ve been tempted to ask strangers if I can hug their dogs. I’ve resisted the temptation to ask our dog sitter to Facetime our dogs for us, but it’s taken more self-control than I care to admit.
Most of the dogs we’ve seen on this trip have, surprisingly, belonged to homeless people. And that has brought about a painful realization for me. While I find myself easily stepping over or around a homeless person sprawled on the sidewalk, the dogs lying next to some of those very same people more easily draw both my attention and sympathy. While my heart aches to do something for those homeless dogs, I can quite easily ignore the needs of their human companions.
When did I become more sensitive to the needs of animals than I am to those of people?
Fellow animal lovers will attest that one can become cynical when faced with the abuses heaped on animals dumped at local shelters or worse, simply left to die in alleys or ditches. It can be overwhelming and it can harden a heart if you let it.
But, as a Christian, I am called to love and care for all of creation. And that includes people. All people. But that’s a lot harder than loving animals. And a lot messier.
Even in the face of cruelty, animals will often respond with love and loyalty. They are often innocent victims of circumstance. Not so for most people. We often create our own difficult circumstances through bad choices, which presents a much bigger hurdle in achieving sympathy for those facing the consequences of their choices.
But the reality is that we all make bad choices. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we’re all just one bad choice away from a life we can’t imagine living. And that realization changes everything.
I have made bad choices. And I have been forgiven. So I am called to forgive others. And love them. And care for them. Even when it’s messy. I haven’t gotten that entirely right yet. But with God’s continued grace, I am working on it day by day.
I’m so thankful that God uses dogs to teach me lessons about life and love and faith every day. And I’m thankful for the dogs – and people – I get to spend my life with. So today I’m going to love those around me. And when I get home, those puppies are going to get cuddled so hard.