I am not a dog person. Actually, I’m not even an animal person. Somehow every other person in my family got a healthy or extra dose of such an affinity, but not me. I’ve firmly been #TeamNoPets for years.
The same cannot be said for my dear husband. He’s always loved animals and, from the testimony of his siblings, was often the family pet’s favorite. Being home together for an undetermined amount of time gave me enough encouragement to consider a furry addition to our family. The husband had good answers for all of my objections (and I had many), and I found myself growing in favor of the idea. So after a whirlwind of research and preparations and hours of puppy training videos and a call with my dear friend who is a vet, we brought her home.
Everyone, meet Everest.
We choose her name for two reasons:
(1) The snow, of course
(2) From reading about it, I’ve learned that climbing Mount Everest is an extremely long-term, arduous, rewarding, and more arduous journey. We were in this raising-a-dog-thing for the long-haul and I expected it to be wonderful and difficult.
She’s already made leaps and bounds in sleeping well at the right times, potty training, and even learning her name and to come. As of this writing, we’ve had her for a few hours shy of six days.
Day before last, though, we noticed that her right eye was bothering her. Nothing crazy, but it was often red when she woke up and she would scratch it a lot. We thought we should take her to the vet just in case.
Good thing. Turns out she has an ulcer. The best way to fix it, is to (oh, my heart) sew her eye closed and leave her like that for 10 days for it to heal itself. I cried on the way home as we left her there. After a few hours, we picked her back up. She was okay: subdued, but happy to see us and okay. Didn’t even seem like her eye was bothering her that much.
Then came time to put on the cone…
She wasn’t too pleased with us. In fact, she’s quite put out and irritated and moody and a poor thing. For you fellow pet-owners, you know the rending of your heart when they suffer. I was not ready for how sad her pain would make me! I am so not ready for kids.
Yesterday during date night, we had worship and just talked. Much of our conversation centered around her, how the whole situation was affecting us, and reflections from it. We observed how, just from these few days, we’re learning more of the heart of God. Here were some of our reflections
He Chooses What is Best Instead of What Feels Best
When the vet first said what was needed for Everest’s recovery, I balked. That’s so extreme! Can’t we just get her, like, eyedrops or something?? This kind doctor patiently answered all of my panicked questions. I could see the reasoning, but I hated it. I cried. I was frustrated. But we decided to do what is best for her because, well, it’s what’s best for her.
I’m sure that when Everest came home, she was feeling like her situation had gone from uncomfortable to terrible. Why couldn’t she open her eye? What was this insufferable plastic thing around her neck? It was just an itchy eye!
It hurt our hearts to see her that way, but we chose to do what is good for her instead of what feels good. Often times God has done the same for us: instead of allowing us to live in a temporarily okay situation that will lead to much suffering, He draws us down a path of intense healing.
He Is Not Far Removed From Us; He is With Us in Our Pain
Sometimes we can have this sergeant-yelling-in-our-face view of God: “You’re not here to have a good time, you’re here to suffer! You’ll grow from it!”
Oh, but this is not true. Our pain rends His heart. He longs to gather us and protect us from even our own bad decisions (Matthew 23:37), He draws close to us in our pain (Psalm 34:18), and He comforts us in our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-8).
To Everest, it might look like we don’t care, but our hearts are breaking with her whimpering and crying and we are with her every step of the way. As we walk our own pathways of pain and heartache, our loving Savior is walking alongside us.
Even Self-Inflicted Pain Hurts His Heart
Because of the kind of ulcer she has, it’s very likely that Everest did it to herself. That is, she probably scratched her own eye (she can easily reach it with both front and back paws), it got infected, and here we are.
I used to think that God would only heal me and help me with issues that were the result of the sins of others. If I messed something up myself, then well! I’m on my own.
Very much not true.
You know the story of God causing the sun to stand still for Joshua? Did you know that Joshua was only in that situation to begin with because he had disobeyed God? (Joshua 9-10) He’d made an alliance with people he shouldn’t have, hadn’t consulted God, and then had gotten mixed up in a battle he had no business being a part of. Great time for God to say, “Well yeah, I’ll help you when you obey, but you didn’t. So good luck!”
But instead God ended up gifting Joshua one of the most memorable miracles of the Old Testament in his time of need—even though he had gotten there by a result of his own mistakes.
Even if Everest did this to herself, we still have the same amount of compassion and heartache for her and deep desire for her healing. Our love and care for her is not contingent on how she got into this mess. And neither is God’s.
He Chooses the Best Path for Us with the Least Pain
At first, she wasn’t rubbing her eye after her procedure so we were hopeful she wouldn’t need a cone at all. Alas, it was less than 3 minutes after we got home that we realized we were mistaken. She very much was trying to scratch her eye.
First we tried the cone. Well, it wasn’t tight enough so she ended up trapping her arm in there trying to get it off and screamed bloody murder. So then we tried wrapping a towel around her—it’s soft and comfy, so better, right? No, she only acted like all joy and pleasure of life had departed and resorted to nose diving in the carpet and refusing her favorite treats.
So then we cut up the original cone, made it much smaller, and finally got it on. It worked. Her scratching didn’t move it, she couldn’t reach her eye to scratch it, she could still eat and drink with zero issues, she could nap, she could honestly do anything with it! But…she was still not happy. She pouted the rest of the day. The only other thing we could do for her was take it off—but that would be even less loving.
Our goal was not to make her miserable: our goal was to help her heal with the least amount of pain possible.
Sometimes we think Christian currency is pain: the more pain, the more Christian we are. But I’ve found that God seeks to allow us to experience the least amount of pain that we need to in order to grow. Healing is painful, and sometimes we make it even more painful for ourselves, but Jesus is doing everything so that we experience the minimum amount needed for healing, for growth.
This world is full of pain, as it is full of sin and humans. But in Christ, we have a Great Healer, a Great Friend, a Great Savior, and a Great King who seeks to give us the least painful (albeit narrow) of paths. He is a compassionate and trustworthy God, even in our pain.