Voices of Faith: The risk of loving others

I could read the seriousness of the situation the moment I picked up the phone, before my wife even finished her sentence. “You need to come home now … Jakers is on the floor and he’s not moving.”

Our dog Jakers is a very beloved part of our family, as evidenced by the very audible cries of my daughters in the background. Fortunately, my office is within walking distance of my home, so I sprinted over as fast as I could, every step filled with anxiety.

I arrived home to discover Jakers on his side in the hallway, eyes open and breathing, yet not moving. He was obviously conscious, and his eyes were following our movements. As a dog who was overly enthusiastic about pretty much anything in life, however, laying completely still while the rest of us were collectively losing our minds was a sign that something was wrong. This was proven beyond all shadow of a doubt when he wouldn’t even turn his head to take a treat, given the fact that up until that moment our dog had never, ever said “no” to food.

After frantically digging through several layers of webpages and phone menus to discover the after-hours emergency line for our local vet, she informed us that if we could move the dog we needed to take him in immediately. As I carefully gathered the dog into my arms, I let out a sudden yelp as wasp shot out from underneath of him and flew past me into another room. As I carried Jakers downstairs (while also watching out for the probably angry wasp) I noticed that he began to shift in my arms to help support his own weight. Soon, he even started holding his head up and looking around. By the time I got outside, he seemed aware and mobile, so I experimentally placed him on the ground. He took two tentative steps, and then immediately became very interested in a rock on the ground before taking a moment to bark at a truck that drove by. Whatever was wrong, wasn’t wrong anymore.

In a follow-up call to the vet to understand what happened, we discovered that what had happened was that our dog had somehow lay down on top of the wasp. Wasps, unlike bees, have a capability to repeatedly sting. So as Jakers was lying down on top of this angry wasp, and every time he moved he was probably getting stung. Naturally, he concluded the best way to avoid pain was to not move … at all.

Ironically, he the best way he would have been able to avoid pain was to actually get up and move, and let the wasp get on its way.

In our life we often respond to pain in the same way. Maybe people we trust let us down or betray us. Maybe we get hurt by the church, a place that is supposed to bring healing and comfort. Maybe we get burned in relationships with the ones we love, discovering the horrible irony that the deepest pain can come from those closest to us.

In our pain we can conclude that getting close to people was the problem, and we react by laying down, shutting ourselves off, and building walls to keep anyone from getting close enough to hurt us again. We shut ourselves in with our pain, not realizing the real healing and freedom can come from going back out into the admittedly risky business of forgiving and loving people again.

That’s why the Bible talks so much about grace and forgiveness. Jesus even goes so far to say “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” (Luke 17:3-4). Unforgiveness, loneliness, and bitterness are stinging wasps that will continue to bring you pain for as long as you choose to lay on top of them.

Our dog is himself again, leaping with typical dog-like excessive enthusiasm through a world full of wasps, spiders, vacuum cleaners, and dangers he isn’t even aware of yet. May we all find the joy of living and loving fully in a world full of imperfect people, knowing that even when we get stung that we have a God who is near to us who “heals the brokenhearted and bandages all their wounds” (Psalm 147:3-4).

Pastor Grant Parkki is the Christian Education Associate Pastor at Kenai New Life. You can find out more about the church and its ministries at kenainewlife.org.

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