A little more than two weeks ago, our family dog of 15 years, Journey, whose painting is on the above video, died. Since that time, our family has shed our fair share of tears. Yes, some of them have been tears of sadness. But most of them have been tears of joy that we were blessed to be visited by the gifts that come with being in a relationship so filled with love, that even in grief, it keeps on giving.
A bunch of years ago in mockery of the “God is my co-pilot” bumper stickers some comic genius came up with a response bumper sticker that said, “Dog is my co-pilot.” And while I know they were trying to make a joke at the expense of those who displayed the God stickers, in the end, I think the joke was on them because it turns out that those seemingly contradictory messages are closer to one another than some might think.
A friend once told me, “True friends listen each other into being.” And I think that is part of what happens when we pray or try to connect to God. When we take part in this relationship with our Creator who sees us not as we’ve been or who we seem to be to ourselves or some others, but rather from the eyes of our becoming, we are listened into being. And it is when we are listened into being that we build the capacity to listen others into being as well. With Journey, I realized that dogs can listen us in to being as well.
Why Don’t Dogs Live as Long as Humans?
“People are born so they can learn how to live a good life. Like, loving everybody all the time, and being nice. Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.” According to a facebook post, these were the words of a 6 years old who offered their reason for why dogs don’t live as long as people.
When I heard this explanation, it brought to mind Jesus’s declaration in Matthew 11:25 when he said “I thank You, Creator, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”
I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t want Journey. Before meeting my wife, I had committed myself to being a childless bachelor for the rest of my days for reasons similar to those that Richard Rohr expressed when he talked about just living undisturbed in the joy of witnessing God’s creation. I think about things like this a lot when I am alone. And in my experience, it often felt like most people were more interested in other things. So eventually, I got pretty close to a being a hermit–wanting only to work, read books, pray and travel for the most part.
But then, I met Kelly, who wanted most of the same things with one exception. She wanted a dog. Specifically a red and white Husky.
In a Psychology Today article, Nigel Barber Ph.D. quotes Colin Groves of the Australian National University, in Canberra, who believes that human’s success as a species is partly due to help from dogs. According to Groves: “The human-dog relationship amounts to a very long-lasting symbiosis. Dogs acted as human’s alarm systems, trackers, and hunting aides, garbage disposal facilities, hot water bottles, and children’s guardians and playmates. Humans provided dogs with food and security. The relationship was stable over 100,000 years or so and intensified in the Holocene period into mutual domestication. Humans domesticated dogs and dogs domesticated humans.”
And essentially, that is what Journey did to me. In so many ways, the life that I have today, began with a friend, I didn’t know I needed who listened me into being.
For full sermon notes click here.