I just heard the furtive sound of a Kleenex being pulled slowly from its box...
I love words; I love to explore their meaning. A few days ago a crossword puzzle reminded me that "brood" can mean "incubate." I'm a really good brooder, when it comes to carrying around thoughts and ideas for a time. But I forget that brooding isn't obsession - you don't think and pick apart those ideas to death, you care for them and give them a loving, hospitable place to gestate and be born in their time.
I've been carrying around, caring for, a particular thought for about 2 1/2 years now, and its time has come. With my upcoming move, my desire to simplify, my need to practice stewardship, my call to do these things to draw even closer to God, comes another aspect of the call: I need to give up the dogs.
I won't go into all the reasoning, questioning, wrestling, crying, praying, and wondering I've done with God about this decision. The point is that I understand it to a small extent (and that understanding is a gift), am choosing faith for the rest of it, and that I know this is being asked of me.
I look at Genesis 22 and Abraham's call to sacrifice his son Isaac. Don't argue with me about whether or not dogs mean as much, or are worth as much, as people - regardless of our views, this is hurting me to the core. (And no, I don't believe God has promised me or Chester that he will make Chester's descendants into a chosen corgi nation.) The story in Gen. 22 is short, but I can imagine what might have been going through Abraham's mind at the time; I can imagine what would be going through mine. "Abraham!" "Here I am!" "Take your son...your beloved Isaac, (the fulfillment of the promise I gave to you) and go...offer him as a burnt offering...."
Wait...WHAT?! Did I hear that right? You mean this son? The one that is the foundation for our covenant? The one you sent directly to me, regardless of the fact that my wife was too old to bear a child? I thought it was too late, I was content with my life, I was close to you, then you came and turned my life upside down and called me to leave my homeland and asked for tremendous trust and actions from me, you promised me things greater than I'd ever imagined, and now you are not only taking it back, you are asking me to kill it?! What is going on???
Okay, Abraham seems to have had a simpler faith; the thoughts above may be mostly mine, not his, but I'll bet he hardly slept, if he slept at all, for the three days it took to travel to the place God had sent him, and the walk alone with Isaac to the final place of sacrifice must have been agonizing, even with great faith.
Now, if you grew up in Sunday School you know that God saves the day at the last minute when he sees that Abraham is willing to give up his promised son and provides a ram to be offered instead. Then God promises Abraham tremendous blessings. So the moral of the story is, just convince God that you're willing to do as he asks, and at the last minute he'll keep anything horrible from happening and bless you instead. No, wait, that doesn't sound right...oh, okay, it's about stewardship versus ownership - ultimately Isaac, Chester, Oliver, etc. are not ours, they are God's. Yes, there is that, but there's more: Abraham ultimately did not falter in his belief, in his deep faith that becomes a form of knowledge, that God would keep his part of the covenant. Maybe Abraham wrestled with the idea, maybe not, but when he brought his promised son to the place of sacrifice, his deepest commitment, the one to God, was the source of his actions. I am not attributing these thoughts to Abraham, but a truth of this story is that God never backed down on his promise, but he might have changed the way he fulfilled it. He may fulfill his promises in ways we could never imagine.
I have had 10 amazing years with Chester - this dog truly is one of my soul-mates. We've had 5 fun years with Oliver. They have both taught me much. I said I would never abandon them, and now the reality is that this process of giving them up has led to the point of my having to give them to strangers, something that is even harder for me to have peace with than if they were to have died. But the truth of this story isn't oops, I messed things up or life didn't go as I'd planned, and now I have to take back that promise that I wouldn't abandon you; the truth is closer to: I misunderstood my power and level of ownership, my control that I had in this relationship. In giving you away, I am still fulfilling my promise to take care of you, because I am doing as God asks, and he's the ultimate caretaker. We will be physically apart, and you will probably forget about me someday, but we will remain close in spirit; nothing, no height, no depth, no life, no death, will separate us. God is the source and goal for all life, and he holds us together. Not one of us is abandoned.