If you had asked me a year ago what my definition of beauty was, I probably would have told you without hesitation, that German Shepherd Dogs were my definition of beauty. I loved everything about them: their wolf-like appearance, their intelligence, loyalty, obedience; trainability for search and rescue, drug detection, and as guide dogs to assist people in need. I admired their noble history of police and military service, their strength, yet gentle ability to love and be a devoted ‘family’ member and faithful, lifetime companion.
I also would have told you that Jesus was my first love and that I loved Him with everything in me, that – …the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Then I watched a Christian TV program. There was a segment in this program about a young woman who was not able to conceive a baby. She had several miscarriages and sank into a deep depression.
I listened to this young woman testify about her long, several year journey of slowly unclenching her fists/hands and releasing control of her life to Jesus. She admitted how badly she wanted to be in charge of her life, for her life to follow the path she had planned.
She talked about this long season of pain in which God was teaching her to look beyond her present circumstance (her barren womb), and above, to Him. In this season she was slowly learning that her deepest longings and all her desires could only be fully satisfied in Him. She was learning to trust in His goodness and to desire His perfect will above her own; even if she didn’t understand it (Proverbs 3:5-6). She began thanking God for all He is and what He had already done for her (on the Cross); not only looking to Him for what she wanted Him to give her, or do for her.
Eventually, her eyes and heart were able to see all the fullness that was already present in her life: her husband, other loving relationships she had, and most important of all – the Holy Spirit Who lived inside her heart.
She found peace in (her new) understanding that although she might never give birth, she didn’t need a baby to be complete. Understanding now, she was already complete in Christ; she knew, Christ was enough!
In time, her womb was healed and she gave birth to a beautiful daughter. She credited God with this miraculous birth, testifying that the healing that took place in her heart (joyfully submitting to and trusting God, while not knowing what was ahead) was equally a miracle.
God was asking me to examine my heart
As I listened to this powerful testimony from my kitchen, the words that rang loudest in my mind were – “she didn’t need a baby to be complete” and “Christ was enough.”
I started to think about my own discouragement through the years each time my husband and I were not in agreement about adopting another German Shepherd Dog (see my October 28, 2016, posting about our first two GSDs, Jake and Noah).
I wanted every sad rescue (GSD) I laid my eyes on, and my husband was satisfied with the ‘animal love’ we shared with our two cats, Percy and Zora. Our compromise finally came in the form of us becoming temporary (12-15 months) “Puppy Raisers” for a guide dog for the blind foundation.
Our new puppy’s name was Esther Hope. She came to live with us when she was 13 weeks old (she was 15 weeks old in the picture above). Her middle name, Hope was added as her big personality became evident in the form of “love bites” (puppy nipping), car chasing, excessive barking, etc… We had Esther Hope for about 3.5 months; working hard to train her and help her overcome some issues of fear that might have been driving some of her excessive energy and behaviors. When she was about six months old, she went back to the foundation for evaluation. Her trainers determined she would not be eligible to complete her guide dog training and would be best suited as a police or airport security dog.
We got to see her one more time to say goodbye before she was relocated for continued training. My husband and I knew we had her only for a time, but we were very sad that our time was cut short. We pray she is well loved and cared for in her new ‘job’ (home?).
Is Christ Enough?
I now had to take a spiritual inventory. Could I be ‘happy’; was my life ‘complete’ without another “4-legged angel” (as I refer to our GSDs). Could I love German Shepherds and Christ too? Yes, but the real question was – Was He enough (in my heart) to make me feel complete if we didn’t get another dog. And since I kept yearning for a dog when I didn’t have one, I had to admit that if God really was enough for me, there wouldn’t be that nagging void.
Had I created an idol (definition from biblestudytools.com: Idolatry – image-worship or divine honor paid to any creature or created object) for myself. I wondered? Was Esther Hope my most recent form of my German Shepherd ‘idol worship’? I had to answer yes.
A Gentle Hand
I was beginning to see God’s gentle hand of grace and truth penetrate my heart, as it seemed this young woman’s testimony was beginning to help me see my love for these dogs for what it truly was. The Holy Spirit was once again (as He has many times before) gently showing me that I too, needed to release control of the idol I had created in my heart. Jesus did say – “If you abide in Me, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set/make you free” (John 8: 31-32).
The ‘Scales’ Falling Off My Eyes
I was complete in Christ, but was blinded and believed the lie, that my life would be more fulfilled if I had a dog to love.
Are you believing a lie too? Is there any area in your life where you can say your life would be more fulfilled if you just had a (fill in the blank). Anyone or anything that takes first place in our hearts/lives (or competes for first place) other than God, is an idol. An idol can be a child, a spouse, riches, a Christian ministry (if we are not Christ-centered), a career, a sports team or figure, a celebrity; even a dog/little puppy! God is a jealous God. He demands and deserves first place in our hearts and lives (Revelation 2:4). Loving God first is the greatest commandment – Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” (Matthew 22:36-37), “It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Luke 4:8), No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
I still think GSDs are beautiful, but they are no longer my definition of beauty/beautiful. Beauty is perfect love, Who laid down His life for the world. His name is Jesus of Nazareth and I covet Him alone.