My beloved granddog.
A clown, a rascal, a soldier.
That dog teaches me so many lessons about God. I wonder if he knows that. Sometimes I wonder if that's his purpose on this earth.
Well, let me tell you a bit about him being a soldier.
A couple of weeks ago, Marty had to have major surgery. He had his spleen removed. Yes, you heard that right – Marty *vented his spleen.* The reason for this rather dramatic occurrence? Well, here's the deal. It's not all that uncommon for dogs to have growths on their spleens. Most often they are cancerous, but even when they're not, they can be very dangerous. These nodules grow and expand, and can burst – and then, a dog can bleed to death in a very short period of time.
So, the treatment is total removal of the problem.
One hospitalization, one "cone of shame," one two-week confinement to a dog bed and pen, and one suture/staple removal appointment later, Marty is doing fine.
No sign of cancer!
I stayed with my son for the two-week convalescent period. (Marty is actually his dog, but don't tell either one of them that!!) Yes, it allowed my son to go to work, and continue with a normal life. But, truthfully, it also allowed me the chance to *love on* that dog, and be a lot less nervous about the whole process.
I will never forget how excited he was when we dropped him off for the surgery. He loves the vet!! People and dogs, what could be better?! (Those moments just about broke my heart…)
And, I will never forget when we picked him up the next day.
My son and I sat in the examining room, and waited for the appearance of that beloved little face. Well, I'll never forget seeing him as he turned the corner, wearing his cone, and walking like a snail on tranquilizers. So slow, with his drugged-up eyes half open. (My eyes teared up...big-time).
But, you know what?
That precious little dog wagged his tail and moseyed a tad bit quicker to get over to us! Let me tell you, those licks of greeting and affection were the best ever.
See, he's a soldier.
As I watched Marty recover, I became determined to not let this experience pass without thinking about what I was learning through it all. I am constantly reminded of my relationship with the Lord as I compare it to my relationship with my grandbeagle.
There's a purity of love and loyalty and devotion, a blessed freedom in total acceptance, a trust and a reliance that I receive from Marty. He adores me, and is also happy and content in my presence. He knows his needs will be fulfilled, and he feels perfectly cared for. Under our wings, Marty is perfectly joyous.
Yes, Marty shows me how I should relate to my Master.
And my love for him? It is also pure and loyal and devoted – given with total and unconditional acceptance. Marty also has a way of bringing out the best in my heart. I relate to him with self-sacrificing care, unmitigated joy, tender-heartedness, kind and gentle patience, big-smile delight, and can't-get-close-enough intimacy.
And truly, isn't that just how our Master relates to us?!
So, what have I learned through this whole experience?
Here we go:
1) "Bad" things are sometimes good things in disguise
This whole odyssey started with a bad experience. Last summer, Marty somehow got into the garbage and ate some leftover Chinese food. By the next morning, his stomach was distended and hard, and he could barely move. A fast trip to the ER, an overnight stay, and multiple testing led to the discovery of the nodule on his spleen.
At the time, my son was quite frustrated with Marty. (See the above-mentioned "rascal" reference). And I was frustrated with the whole situation, too.
But, I have come to realize that the "coincidental" finding of the nodule on his spleen allowed us the chance to potentially save his life.
This really "bad" episode of beagle dumpster-diving was the circumstance that let us become aware of the growth. We were able to monitor it, and remove it before it caused potentially life-threatening consequences.
How many times in the Bible do we read of the same sort of thing?
A seemingly bad thing, a "coincidental" occurrence, turns out to be a life-saving rescue?
Our greatest example?
That terrible cross – the worst thing that ever happened in the history of time. And yet, that "bad" turned out to be the best thing ever. A life saver, in every way!
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."
(Genesis 50:20, ESV)
2) Sometimes the cure is painful
In the end, the cure for Marty's problem involved major surgery, and a painful recovery. The cure was invasive and drastic – but necessary. Sometimes, our sin requires the same thing. Sometimes the cure isn't a bandage. Sometimes the sin is much more than a skin-deep scratch.
This is when God does the right thing, the best thing. He digs in with spiritual surgery, and removes the problem. Painful, yes, and drastic. And sometimes downright invasive. We often don't want the "cure," do we?
But sin can grow and expand and threaten us.
God is all about giving us Life. And becoming more like Him, letting Him live through us, well, sometimes that requires major surgery, pain, and recovery.
But in the end, we are restored.
"But God's discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way." (Hebrews 12:10-11, NLT)
3) Accept the cage
Marty is an *allowed-on-the-couch-and-bed* dog. My son spends a great deal of time next to his best friend, and vice versa. But, surgery recovery required something else. Absolutely NO jumping. Nope, Marty needed to be confined in one small area to recuperate.
The solution? A new dog bed, and a pen to surround him.
I'm not kidding. It literally was like a little hospital ward! Wanna know a secret? I spent the first night sleeping on the floor next to him. I started on the couch, but realized I wasn't going to get any sleep constantly wondering if he was OK. So, a couple of couch cushions, a pillow, and some blankets later – the nurse moved into the "ward."
But this lesson centers on how willing Marty was to accept this whole change of routine. He really just *went with the flow* – and never complained.
You know, sometimes life just brings a slew of problems. Circumstances that jolt us out of our routines. So often we find ourselves having to adjust to new challenges and aggravating inconveniences. I don't know about you, but I don't do well in these kinds of situations.
I fight against them, and I complain.
Marty taught me, once again, that the best thing I can do is to accept what life throws at me, to remain unflustered by change, and to learn how to be content in the middle of every situation.
Even if I feel "penned in."
"…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret…I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13, ESV)
4) Take the time to escape
Marty has this thing – he loves to bury himself under blankets. I think he likes shutting out the light and the noise and the distractions. I think under a blanket is his *happy place.*
Well, this special place is a little harder to reach when one is wearing a plastic cone!!
I had to laugh as I watched Marty try to maneuver the blanket with that cone on. Well, at first I laughed, but then I had to help. I could hear (even though he is a silent dog) his muttering frustration.
But, again, the lesson I learned is that sometimes you've just got to cover up and escape from life – you have to get away from it all. Sometimes you just need to give yourself some grace. Give yourself permission to not have it all together.
Sometimes we need to stop being so hard on ourselves or we'll implode.
Sometimes we need to just find a good blanket (emotionally, spiritually – and sometimes, literally!), curl up, and just retreat from the world to recover, revive, refresh, and restore.
We have a good example.
Jesus Himself placed a high priority on finding time to rest. His *alone* time was precious, and He needed it. I do believe He would encourage us to follow in His footsteps.
And sometimes those footsteps need to lead us away to a quiet place.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul…" (Psalm 23:2-3, NASB)
5) Rest in the love and care of others
As I've said before, Marty is a picture of perfect trust. He just knows that we love him, and that we are doing everything in our power to protect and nurture and care for him.
He still loved us after surgery. He accepted the cone when we had to place it on him. He was content in the pen. He eagerly ate the new food and willingly took the new medicine. He entrusted himself to us, without a doubt, and rested in our arms.
Is this not the biggest lesson of all?
I think it might be for me.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don't be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD…Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones." (Proverbs 3:5-8, NLT)
So yes, this was quite an ordeal.
But how can I relate this experience to my relationship with the Lord, my Master?
And what have I learned from Marty?
I can still love the Lord even after a painful event.
I can accept change when the Lord deems it necessary – even if it's inconvenient and changes my routine.
I can be content when the Lord tells me it's time to rest – and realize that sometimes "jumping through all of the hoops" isn't the best.
I can eagerly eat the daily bread that He provides me – even on the days when it's different than what I'm used to, something I might not want, or feels meager.
I can willingly take the *medicine* of discipline, knowing that it is given because it will make me well.
I can entrust myself to Him, without a doubt, and rely on His loving arms. I can know that He loves me, and believe that He will do everything in His power to protect and nurture and care for me.
I can trust Him…and rest.
Thank you, Marty, for once again teaching me so much about life and love and God.
A beagle heals.
And so do I…
The Happy Place
The Precious Face
"The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
He provides me rest in rich, green fields
beside streams of refreshing water.
He soothes my fears;
He makes me whole again,
steering me off worn, hard paths
to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.
Even in the unending shadows of death's darkness,
I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
near with Your protection and guidance,
I am comforted.
You spread out a table before me,
provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;
You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,
filling my cup again and again with Your grace.
Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me
where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
in Your house forever."
(Psalm 23, THE VOICE)
"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation." (Isaiah 12:2, NIV)
"When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid." (Psalm 56:3-4, NASB)
"Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully." (1 Peter 5:7, AMP)
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." (1 Peter 5:10, NIV)
"Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay." (Romans 8:18-21, NLT)
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" (Revelation 21:4-5, ESV)
How do these lessons speak healing to your soul?
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