O Holy Night and a Dog Named Buddy
It’s Sunday morning as I write this, and I am home because overnight we had a nasty blast of icy snow that has left my driveway a sparkling sheet of white. While I should have spent this extra time at home doing restful things that quiet and enrich my soul, I decided to sweep/vacuum the whole house, organize everything that looked disheveled, and revise future lesson plans. This is not necessarily a bad thing—I am a scientist who firmly believes in the second law of thermodynamics and the proliferation of microbes. But let me explain.
Our rescue dog, Buddy, has been acting weird lately—I’m suspicious he is starting to go blind. He is older, and has always been a low-key, people-loving lab. But now, he avoids steps, got very stressed at his favorite friend’s house, and won’t walk on the tile in our kitchen. While I was vacuuming this morning, he followed me like a shadow. While I was typing lesson plans, he kept trying to climb into my lap. Naturally, I got very frustrated because my productivity was being hampered. Like a true Millennial, I switched tabs and googled, “what to do when your dog is being extremely clingy,” immediately followed by “how to help an old blind dog.” How thoughtful and responsible of me.
Website after website explained the causes of separation anxiety, why you should not rearrange your furniture, and how to dispense dog treats using positive reinforcement. Yikes. Then, I stumbled upon this instruction, “Remember: older dogs still need attention. Make effort to spend time with them. Play with toys, take them on car rides, or just sit on the floor touching them.” So, I got out of my desk chair, laid down next to Buddy, and stroked his back. He nuzzled my face, leaned back, and instantly drifted off to sleep. I sat there and sobbed.
The Holy Spirit’s conviction pierced my soul. All Buddy needed was two minutes of simple presence. It reminded me of a line in my dad’s favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
That’s what Buddy (and all of us) are craving: the knowledge that we matter, someone sees us, and that we are loved. And the knowledge of this worth comes from the presence of Christ himself. I felt the weight of my sin twofold.
1) I spent my Sunday morning rushing around and cleaning because for years I have never been able to shake the lie that my worth comes from what I do, and
2) How many glimpses of God’s grace and unconditional love have I missed because I could not slow down and be present? How many times has my husband, my mom, or a friend called and I put them on speaker and rushed around doing other things (trying not to make too much noise so that they won’t suspect anything)? How many times have I said “yes” to something that wasn't mine to do—and left Buddy’s precious little face peering out the window as I drove off to go try to prove my sense of worth to myself or someone else. No, I’m not obsessed with my dog, but he has certainly taught me more than I ever thought was possible.
It doesn’t matter how cleaned up things look on the outside if on the inside I am aching and exhausted from trying to prove I matter and that my value comes from what I can produce. Christ has come. God looks at me and sees the finished work of Jesus—that means I am enough. This grace is sweet. It gives me permission to cuddle happily with my dog, laugh earnestly at my students’ jokes, listen intently to my husband’s stories, and sit quietly in worship of my Creator. No more rushing, running, bull-dozing, and flying around trying to convince myself (or anyone else) I am worth something. I am already enough—because Christ is more than enough. Thank the Lord for His sufficient grace...and my old pal Buddy.
“What more can He say, than to you He hath said…to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.”