college travels

Friday, December 11, 2009

God's Reflection in Pet Affection

We started up the car to take our cat to the vet. By accident or by providence the USB-drive was still connected to the car audio system. The next track played:

How great the father’s love for us

We were on our way to have Timmy put down. He’d suffered a catastrophic kidney failure and was being poisoned by his own body.

How vast beyond all measure

My mind went back to Graham’s 2007 Theology of Children’s Ministry Conference talk “Will my dog go to heaven?” I remembered too something that C.S. Lewis once wrote. In The Four Loves he wondered if the affection we feel for our pets is a reflection of one of the dimensions of God’s love for us.

That he should send his only son

Having a pet does give you opportunity to learn what it means to be responsible, considerate and accommodating. We knew not to leave meat or corn cobs out on the kitchen bench, for this would have been a temptation more than Tim could bear (1Cor .10:13). If ever anything was knocked over or tipped out, if Tim was sick or coughed up a fur ball, we knew that we had to clear up after him, for he was not able to do it for himself (Eph. 2:5). He would trust us to feed him every morning and every evening of his life and to provide him a home to feel safe in and a place to belong (Matt. 6:33).

The Bible tells the story of God’s love for and commitment to the human race. Within the story we are made aware that this is just one part of a much bigger story in which God is reconciling the whole of the created order to himself. We see glimpses of this from time to time (Gen. 6:19; Ps. 148:7-13; Mk. 16:15; Col. 1:20). But few details are provided.

As we look back over Tim’s life we recognise and appreciate the part that he’s played in our family. He slept on James’s bed to keep him company through the night when James was anxious. He had a knack of sensing who was feeling down and sitting with them, or on them. He would sit down and listen as we read bed-time stories to the children. He would join us on walks from the house and wait for us at the boundary of his ‘territory’ to welcome us back. He was always available to play and you could tell him absolutely anything and know for certain that he wasn’t going to gossip to others.

Within that bigger story we do not know what part a goldfish called Dorothy or a dog called Lassie or a kangaroo called Skippy might have been called to play. But Tim has not only given us an opportunity to see in our care for him a pale reflection of God’s love for us. He has also reminded us again and again what friendship entails.

Even if you have no time for hermit crabs, guinea pigs or dogs, perhaps when you next talk to a child who has lost a pet, it might be worthwhile finding out how God has been at work in them, through their involvement with their friend.

To make this wretch his treasure.

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