Reflecting on loss seems to be a recurring theme here. Perhaps it's because, at this stage of life, losses (or changes) march into our lives with increasing regularity. Parents die. Children leave. Careers end.
Yesterday, our sweet natured German shepherd lost his fight with what was most likely a brain tumor. In light of the day's cacophonous reports of death and mayhem around the world, this is a very small thing. Inconsequential. And a part of me feels ashamed to even write of it. Yet here I am - writing.
I would like to think my record of this event goes deeper than a desire for sympathy or sentimental platitudes about pets being family members. I hope this even goes beyond being a faltering tribute to a "good dog". Yes, my husband and I (and even our grown children) are sad. Yes, though Nikko was not truly a family member (after all, who sends a family member to a kennel or bathes him with a hose in the backyard?), he was a part of our family structure - the one who most vocally and joyously greeted us, our children, and even guests without abandon. And yes, Nikko was a good dog. He was everything a dog should be - from his devoted guarding of the steps while we slept to his relentless chasing of tennis balls (and our relentless sweeping up of his hair balls throughout our house).
But the thing I really want to talk about is this - losses are ultimately for my gain. They cause me to ponder life's brevity and hopefully to hold it more tenderly. Losses lead me to reflect upon my own life and its meaning. Most of all, however, I think losses point me to Christ - as his willing loss has resulted in my eternal gain.
From heavenly king to earthly babe, from time before time to the minutia of this life, from sweet intimacy with the Father to abandonment on the cross. Jesus freely laid down all the glories that were rightfully his that I might receive all the glories that I do not deserve.
Consider this passage from Philippians 2: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And so I am grateful for these recurring lessons in loss and gain and am thankful that God does not tire of teaching me. He does not spare me from loss but is there with me in its midst - comforting, holding, gently directing my eyes ever upward. Sometimes he uses the simplest of his creatures to accomplish the task. In this case, my dog. A good dog. Our Nikko
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?