I love my dog. I know that’s about as interesting as one of those stick family decals on the rear window of a mini-van. It even sounds like something you might read on a bumper sticker.
This isn’t about bumper stickers though, but rather bumping along in life with worries that ping-pong around like reckless cars weaving through traffic.
Gus, is a faux-lab we adopted when he was a year old. I call him a faux-lab because he doesn’t like the water. This baffles me because his breed seems almost amphibious. He had been at the shelter for six weeks before we adopted him. I am not sure if that had anything to do with the sign on his kennel which read, “I eat blankets.” Since I like to hide underneath blankets when the world feels too wonky, I figured our shared affinity for bed covers might make a good match.
When we brought him home from the shelter, Gus was as shiny and black as a baby grand piano with dazzling white teeth as his keys. He is nine-years-old now. His muzzle is gray and his teeth aren’t quite as glossy. He doesn’t eat blankets, but he’s always there when I need one. The longer I have him the more grateful I am for his unconditional love and the uncanny way he completes our family.
The more I realize how dear this dog is, the more I worry about my next dog. I lament that I won’t be able to find another dog as perfect, that I won’t even like any other dogs, that when the dog I have dies I am going to adopt 10 more cats to add to the two I have and just call my life a dog-gone disaster with a dozen litter boxes to clean.
Breaking from my catastrophic thinking I wonder why I can’t just enjoy right now. Why am I wasting time trying to write a future when the only thing I can author is my present? Why is it that the more I know what I have the more afraid I am to lose it? Why can’t I be like the Beatles and just let it be?
Let it be.
Sometimes I look at my life, and I don’t know whether hypocrisy or irony is screaming louder. I write about mercy, because I believe whole-heartedly in its power to change lives and, in a broader sense, the world. That is not hyperbole. It is a truth that exists regardless of whether we acknowledge or believe it.
Despite my enthusiasm, doing works of mercy sometimes feels like a struggle. You would think in my zeal, I would embrace them with a “Woo-hoo! Here’s another opportunity for me to serve!” But often my “woo-hoo” sounds more like, “woe is me.”
Frequently the service we are called to do is organic, and, like the produce in the grocery store, organic always costs more. It has always felt easier to serve when I plan for it, choose the capacity, and have had a shower. When someone else’s misfortune interrupts my plans or to-do list, it can be frustrating.
Recently, I took my mom to the doctor, because she was sick. I tried to be peppy about it despite my manic Monday mentality. My mom was pleasant and chatty on the way to her appointment, and, instead of gratitude for her attitude, I begrudged it for being better than mine. After all, I was the healthy one. Why wasn’t I bubbly and bright? Maybe she should have been driving me around! Read more
I was in an existential funk questioning my purpose, God’s plan for me, and the universality of suffering. Someone suggested as a solution that I should be more shallow. While I understood the spirit of love in which it was made, it was a funny thing to hear.
Besides, I’ve tried. I’ve wrapped my self in the superficial that society hawks. But when my closet starts to cram contents together, I am more interested in streamlining than another sale.
I am always telling my boys when they ask to buy something (that they already own four of) that it’s not going to fill them. I tell them God is the only one who can do that. Of course, this does little to discourage their desires. Still, I hope the message eventually settles in.
There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, enjoying a good sale, or a great pair of shoes, but the joy it brings is superficial, unsustainable, and nothing like the satisfaction we get from a relationship with God. Thinking about the work of mercy to clothe the naked, it seems almost archaic considering the number of clothes we all own. I recently visited several thrift stores for an outfit for an upcoming 80s fundraiser, and I was struck by the volume of clothes in these warehouse-size buildings. It was astounding. And while I understand that there are many areas in which this work of mercy still applies, such as a woman fleeing an abusive relationship, families who lose everything in natural disasters, poor families who can’t afford to replace their children’s outgrown clothes, and the homeless who lack proper shoes or jackets, I can’t help but think of clothing the naked on a deeper level. Read more