I always process best when I write or teach…so I’m sorry if this comes out a bit strange but I am starting the process of grieving and to be honest, there has been much going on lately in life that is all kind of hitting at one time….and today, having to make the decision to end the life of a trusted companion and sitting in a room at a vet clinic with my wife who is even closer to this incredible animal and to hear and watch her sobs….well….let’s just say there is much to process. We had an incredible dog begin to have seizures (at only 6 years of age) and just paid a large amount of money for an MRI to determine, if we could, what was causing the seizures and if we could help the dog. Unfortunately, the test showed a very large and fast growing tumor taking up 25% of his brain and putting stress and pressure down the spinal column….in short, he was terminal.
Now I know not everyone is a dog person or for that matter a pet person…so they won’t fully understand having an animal that is welcome in places (some hotels for instance) which doesn’t even want children! “Gunner” was exceedingly well trained…going through major obedience classes totally off leash. He was also the kind of dog that was far more interested in staying by my side (or Sheri’s side) than to be off running with other dogs. He was very unique in that regards, very sensitive to our moods and extremely loving. He was in short a “people dog” and perhaps the best dog we have ever owned…and that is saying a lot! So sitting in a 6′ x 8′ room, trying to understand, trying to pray, trying to be there for my wife as she is knowing we need to end the life of animal she has bonded with like no other animal she has ever owned, watching her shaking with emotion…it is pain beyond belief.
But there is more in this pain….
There is the pain in having to make a decision like this….and to know the decision was going to inflict pain. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions, in life, in ministry, even in our own desire to heal. Who gets care? Who gets funding? What child gets sponsored first? Does money go to shoes or medicine or food or education? When a girl leaves the sex trade behind but we don’t have $250 for this month as a donation for her to live, what do we tell her? God didn’t provide? Do we ignore this persons’ “problem” until they realize they have one?
At times, when I tell people about WonGeneration, and the stories of feeding homeless or children, the girls rescued, the kids who now have mentors, the counseling… they will say, “Wow, you must get such a good feeling doing the work you are doing!” I mostly smile and nod….what they don’t see is the rest of the story. Yes, it feels good when we get to feed kids, or get a group of youth scholarships, or provide a way out for a young girl caught up in the sex trade feeling like there is no way out….yes, that feels good….but…there is also the feeling of wanting so desperately to save one more, feed one more, clothe one more, help one more….and wondering why…knowing God could have provided more.
The more years in which God graces me also bring a greater sense of evil in the world. Perhaps my eyes are being opened as in 2 Kings 6:15-17 when God allowed His servant to see with Spiritual eyes and was able to see the angels which were about to fight their battle. In my case, He is allowing me to see what attacks come against those I love and against those who choose to serve well.
I have seen great ministry leaders reduced to tears because of other professed believers who caused incredible pain. I have seen people leave the faith over actions inside of churches and/or small groups. And I have seen good people choose not to fulfill their calling because they did not want the pain of ministry. They did not want the attacks on their families, they did not want to pay the price of what it truly means to have your heart broken over and over and over again…and I have watched as men and women of God put up walls around themselves, quit being transparent, and allowed sin to enter and cover their pain with self-medication forms which effectively destroyed their ministries.
What must it have been like for Jesus…to weep over Jerusalem, longing to protect the children of God? Or for His friend, Lazarus and to see the pain on Martha and Mary’s faces? What must it have been like for Jesus to see the effects of sin in the world so clearly and yet watch as time and time again, humankind chose to things their way instead of how the Father would want them to behave?
So I miss my dog…and I am feeling so battered and broken because I can’t fix any of this…I can’t raise money fast enough to build another children’s home, or pay for another girl to leave bar work, or get more adults educated, or more kids in art programs, or more families on a program to recovery, or….I can’t do it!
And I couldn’t pray away the tumor in my dog….and I had to listen and watch as my wife sobbed and convulsed because she too lost a great friend who gave her comfort. And like Jesus, this particular friend was innocent. Gunner only seemed to know how to love…unconditionally. Sometimes I think that is why we named these animals “dog” because it is God backward. They are the only animals I have ever met to give such love!
If only we all loved like that….like Gunner…like Jesus.
So in the midst of my pain I reminded this is a broken and fallen world. Genesis chapter 3 happened and I can’t change that. All that is bad entered because of that moment…so families get broken, relationships get broken, people get cancer, hunger happens, governments turn corrupt, natural disasters occur, war happens…and somehow in the midst of these situations, we are to be reminded that we are not alone. God is here, now, with us!
If I felt the love of God because of the unconditional love of a friend, then I must recognize that God is not gone just because the friend is. All of the tragedies of life, for which I see many, are a reminder of how much we need a Savior. And if I can hurt over all of these things, these struggles, this pain…and I am still so very far from perfect…how much more must Jesus weep over what He sees? How much more will the Spirit of God within me mourn and desire to cry out at the injustice still within this world? How long until the Father finally shouts “enough” and the time of the return of the King begins?
I pray soon….I pray for this ache in my heart to go away…at least for a time. I pray for the guidance and the provision to serve well. I pray that I can be half the man my dog thinks I was. I pray my wife can heal and I can hear her laugh again. I pray that while my head understands how much God hates sin because He sees every bit of the pain it causes, I also pray my heart will have the Grace needed to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of a fallen world.
So Gunner, I will miss you as I head to my office in the morning…without you beneath my desk. And you will be missed more than I have words to express. And through my tears as I type, I will use your memory as a reminder of God’s goodness. I will give Him thanks for the 6 years we were given together. I will strive to remember in the midst of the pain, that goodness still abounds and we must focus on the goals ahead and use the pain of loss as a reminder to love in the future.