This past weekend was a bit of a rough one on the home-front, as we had to bid farewell to our most beloved Zoey. A previous “wandering” has already been had on her life story, of sorts, but it’s safe to say that the quality of that life had diminished in recent months. It seemed like it had become a distant memory of her running up-and-down church building and parsonage hallways chasing after tennis balls or relentlessly going after the biggest stick she could find on beachfronts. I suppose those were the best of her “good ‘ole days.”

Looking back, I believe the ultimate reality check for me recognizing that my own living, most wonderful version of “man’s best friend” not being the energetic puppy form came during the global pandemic, oddly enough. Since I was, technically, one of those “immunocompromised” people, and being married to one of those not-so-lucky people working on the front lines of the novel virus; and, like the rest of the world, we didn’t know what the heck was going on: Zoey and I retreated to another farm nearby where I grew up (not to mention where Zoey learned how to be a “good dog” from another lab) that had an un-occupied house.

There was this long path behind that house, going through the middle of crop fields, all the way to a strip of fast-food restaurants and stores. One sunny afternoon, our chocolate (with some invading gray) lab and I made the trek. She brought one of her standard repertoire toys along for the journey. She did her usual check-in with random smells, to be sure, but kept up with the pace relatively well. Except, on the way back, maybe half-way to our COVID-bunker, of sorts, she just plopped down in the grass. Evidently, she needed a break. She needed to rest. She needed to…not be a puppy anymore. And I…needed to be okay with that. She still had this smile on her face, so it appeared: that she was still enjoying herself even if she wasn’t chasing after tennis balls or sticks.

I will be the first to admit that it took me a long while to accept that. I pushed her a bit too far on walks around the Cleveland Heights-end, to be sure, and so she would plop herself down on her go-to rug, panting uncontrollably and not move from that spot for a while. I suppose she was trying so hard to teach me her own living, most wonderful version of “Be still,” and see the beauty of God in her relentless companionship, her constant adoration of the Creation, her never-ending love. Granted, at the beginning, she emphasized a zest for life to be sure, as if there was the bottomless source of energy, perhaps a decent connection to the Holy Spirit churning within us at an eternal rate of hope.

Then, in these humbling days of disappointment, regret, sadness, and plain ‘ole…this-just-sucks-ness, I suppose she’s still teaching me something:…it will take as long as it takes. When we sang “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus” to conclude our Sunday 9AM worship festivities, there may been some tears creeping in, as I couldn’t join in on the notes quite as much. After all, the walks with her were a living, most wonderful source of spiritual nourishment, to be sure. Those treks would be a holy combination of a zest for life and needing to stop and be still, all the while allowing whatever emotions and thoughts and feelings to be processed amidst a beautiful nature and an even more beautiful God. Soon enough, we’ll cling to that beauty of God who can take on death and reign victorious. But right now, I cling to the beauty of God in Jesus Christ, who will walk with us in our own dark valleys…as long as it takes; who will walk with us with a holy combination of zest for our life and stillness and grace and whatever else is needed to take as long as it takes. Thanks be to God, indeed!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad