I am convinced that God made dogs to enable us to see grace from the grace-giver's perspective, rather than our usual position as a recipient of grace. At our house we have a new canine addition, a mixed-breed (mostly lab) nine week old pup named Bob. His older brother, Matthias, is a four year old dog with so many bloodlines that we figure he must be like the original dog "kind" that padded after Noah when he disembarked from the ark.
I know that not everyone cares much for dogs, but when I discover somebody is a "dog person," I must confess that gives them character points in my book. It speaks of a certain generosity of spirit, an inclination not to take things (including oneself) too seriously, and a sense of humor.
So what does living with dogs teach us about God's grace towards us?
He loves us even when we're yucky. There's a puppy sleeping on my feet right now. Before bounding in here and asking to join me on the leather sofa, he had been, according to the water-loving dictates of his lab genes, in the stream. He stinks a bit. There is a wet, gritty sensation beginning to run off the dog and seep between my toes. As he lies there dreaming of vanquishing the big dog in a game of pull, he has no idea how undesirable he is. Aren't we like that before God? Sometimes, perhaps, we have an inkling of our yuckiness before Him, but we don't know the half of it. Yet when we come before Him, He welcomes us anyway.
He works on just a few problems at a time. Right now we are focusing on getting Bob trained to do his toileting outside. We are also working at training him to come when called and to teach him the meaning of the word no. We are saving other things for another day. Later he will learn to sit and stay, to catch the ball, and walk politely on the leash. He doesn't know he needs to learn these things, but we do. We will teach him a few things at a time because that's all his little brain can handle. So it is with us. God gives us what we can handle and no more, as He moves us forward and reshapes us in the image of Christ.
He knows what we want and need better than we do. Matthias and Bob think they want more people food and less dog food. They would prefer to do without those vaccinations the vet gives them. Matthias doesn't understand why we won't let him go outside and chase that skunk he has spotted in the back yard. What is best for them is not always what they would choose, nor what would make them happiest at this moment. We also think we know best what we want, but God knows better, and gives us every perfect gift at the perfect time.
He loves us even when we forget to be grateful. Matthias and Bob go to their dishes, expecting to find them full of food as usual. They are. They eat. They think little of it. So we are before God. Of course there's food in the refrigerator and air to breathe and a roof over our heads. And God is pleased to provide for us, even when we forget to say thanks.
He welcomes us back even when we've been away for a very long time. Matthias sleeps the afternoon away on his bed upstairs. After several hours he suddenly remembers me, decides he needs some petting, and presents his head in my lap. We are like that. Too long we neglect the Word and prayer, and yet when we remember God, He is there willing to spend time with us.
He doesn't complain about how much trouble we are. When Bob finishes his nap, I will have to wipe down the sofa. Because we have dogs we have messes to clean up, vet bills to pay, and we have to take walks when they need them rather than when we want them. We don't point this out to the dogs. They wouldn't understand anyway. We don't mind, either, because we find enough pleasure in them to make it all worthwhile. We have no idea how much providential care God takes of us to save us, provide for us, protect us, and keep us on our way. Yet He does it because it pleases Him to do it, and He never makes us feel that we aren't worth the trouble.
I will never fully understand the extent of God's grace toward me. Yet, at my feet is a little, warm, wet, furry object lesson that paints a dim picture of how much I need it.