My first reaction, reader, was to contradict him. Contradict the little one, racked with grief so that he could only lay in the floor – how arrogant. To give him the Sunday school response: Jesus would take the sadness away. But I didn’t say it. I wrestled, my tears matching his, as I bent over the little boy who just lost his truest companion. I know Jesus came to take away our pain and suffering for eternity; but how could I look my son in the face and say that Jesus would take away this pain in this moment – when I knew that would not be true.It isn’t true because my children were facing the aftermath of death on a Saturday afternoon. And even death made Christ weep. True, my little boy was mourning his beloved Labrador and Jesus had been mourning a dear friend; but in the heart of a seven (and nine, and yes, even thirty-four) year old, the two are synonymous. Though quite unlike Jesus, my children couldn’t resurrect their beloved pet. The finality of her absence swept over them in waves, pounded them as high tide beats the shoreline: the wagging of her tail that constantly knocked things over, her tap-dancing excitement on their return from school, the good-morning snorts issued to rouse lingering slumberers, her absolute, whining despair at being excluded from a trip to the bathroom – all of these things they’d taken for granted when they bedded down the night before, were suddenly and forever taken from them. And each one hurt.
Yes, God is a big God. Yes, He is our ever-present comfort. Yes, our tears matter to Him.
But we must also admit that death is so counter to His design, the pain etched on our hearts cannot be poo-pooed away, that there is no consolation for this kind of loss while we tarry on terra firma. That but for the resurrection of believers, the propitiation of Christ for our sins, the substitution of Jesus for our guilt, death wins. Permanently. But for the sacrifice of Jesus – His life for our sins. So that we might spend eternity with God the Father. Yet, even this sacrifice – God, incarnate, on a cross, dying for the sins of the entire world -- didn’t wipe death from the face of the earth. Every living thing must still die. And with death comes swooping grief.And so, my minis have once again encountered the truth that sometimes, Jesus doesn't take this pain away. What He (and the Father and Holy Spirit) will do is be with us in our sorrow. God is ever-present; God weeps at death. God desired that it not happen in the first place.
But we, humans, we mucked it up. We continue to muck it up. We pick rebellion and sin and death, over and above life and joy and peace. We choose, with our whole beings, the ways of darkness – so that all that we love is destroyed in the aftermath.And God weeps. For us, for our loss, for our hurting hearts. And He offers a way through death, a way to find hope and eternal life and love. He offers Jesus, His Son, instead of eternal death. And though this sacrifice does not eliminate the pain surrounding death, nor even physical death itself, it is far, far more than we sinners could ever deserve.
Friends, I have to say that if ever a dog were permitted into heaven [and don’t go toe-to-toe with me on this one, because all of Genesis and Revelation will be brought to bear], my beloved minis’ Daisy and Oso will be happily panting in the presence of the Almighty Lord and His Glorious Son and the Holy Spirit. In fact, I have a feeling one of the playful Three has been tossing a ball, or creating streams into which a particularly playful lab has ventured, for one of His more loving, selfless, and gentle creatures.But, I will concede, that if marriage does not exist in heaven, then my treasured canine companions might be absent. In which case, I am grateful to the Creator for their brief appearance here on earth. And I am confident that whatever heaven may encompass, so long as I am in the presence of the eternal and Almighty God, there will be nothing that I miss.
I pray, beloved, with all that is within me, that you and I might know the boundless, accepting, and perfect love of the Father, through the sacrifice of His Son, and the anointing of the Holy Spririt. That you and I might see one another at the Feast of the Lamb.
Beloved friend and dearest companion
canine theologian if ever there were
August 2002 - April 2013