March 6, 2008

Keeper Lessons 
by Meghan Kleppinger, Editor, Christianity.com

I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!"
Psalms 91:2

Everyone loves those “dog movies.” You know the ones – like Homeward Bound and My Dog Skip, and Benji, and Lassie. Actually, I can’t watch those movies because I crumble to pieces whenever I see an animal in harm's way, or treated with cruelty. Yes, I know they’re fictional and special effects are used, but it started with Old Yeller when I was five… and please don’t ask me to explain the rest of that story!

Well, these days, I feel as though I’m living out one of those dog story movies.

I adopted a 5-year-old collie mix last November that had been rescued by an animal society on the day she was to be euthanized. I was told she was friendly but hand-shy and that she had been abandoned and probably abused. I quickly found this to be true and it nearly drove me to tears each time I would go to pet her and she would flinch.

About two weeks after the adoption, my dog started having seizures. I can’t begin to explain the fear that consumed me. It was nothing compared to the terrified and confused look in my pup’s eyes. The vet told me that she will have to be on epilepsy meds for life and that whoever gave her up probably did so because they didn’t think she was worth the effort and cost.

I love this dog and I’m committed to keeping her healthy and safe, but I’ve had the most difficult time communicating this with her. I even named her Keeper as a reminder that she has found her forever home and that she is, indeed, a keeper.

The other day while I was walking her, a huge black dog jumped out of nowhere and attempted to attack her. I don’t know how to explain my reaction when this happened. In mamma bear fashion, I didn’t think, I reacted. I started screaming at this dog, “Get off of her!” and threw myself between the two of them. Eventually, I managed to pull out and then walk away, a little shaken, but unscathed. I saw two wet saliva spots on her skin - attempted bite marks - and realized how fortunate we were.

God started to impress some things upon me as we walked home. Here I had this dog that was abused, abandoned, unwanted, and considered worthless by someone. She has trust issues but at the same time wants so badly to please me.

It made me think of us humans. We have trust issues. We have hurts and pains that we don’t understand and don’t want to revisit. Sometimes it’s hard for those of us who have been hurt to obey God’s call to trust Him.

What God reminded me of was that He doesn’t just tell us we can trust Him, or command us to do so, but through scripture and through circumstances in our lives He shows us over and over again that we can trust Him.

I took my dog out for a walk again the same day as the earlier attack and I nearly had a nervous breakdown as I saw two huskies approaching us. I knew them to be friendly dogs, but the last thing I wanted was for Keeper to go into her Alpha-dog “I’ll protect you and myself” mode. She doesn’t initiate attacks, but she doesn’t shy away from them either.

Anyway, rather than showing her teeth or barking, like she normally does, she hid behind me.

I had spent months petting, hugging, grooming and feeding her, and telling her that she was “my girl,” but it never seemed to be enough to gain her full trust. On the day of the attack, something happened. Something clicked. She saw by my actions that I cared for her and that in turn, she could trust me.

God reminded me that Jesus stepped in and, knowing the cost, paid the ultimate sacrifice for us. Though others may think us worthless, He thought we were worth being saved to the point of death. He has proven that He cares for us and can be trusted.

Why then, do we so often try by ourselves to fight those battles that threaten us each day? Why do we go into alpha-dog mode when He has told us that He will go before us and fight for us?

Keeper ran behind me when we saw those two huskies because she knew I would protect her. Most of all, what God taught me through my dog that day is that I need to do the same… I need to seek His protective covering and let Him take care of me.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Further Reading

Psalms 20:7
2 Chronicles 20:17
Why God Can be Trusted: Letter to the Hebrews 
Learn How and When to Trust in a World of Betrayal