Farmville Enterprise January 24, 2018
This morning was our first walk with him being gone. He had slowed down a lot the past few months, but the joint medication and daily pain pill seemed to keep him comfortable. Max, our dog of twelve years, was slower on Tuesday’s walk than he ever had been. On Wednesday morning he did not eat his food, which never had happened. He hardly ate the salt-free green beans that were his favorite treat and only got up twice all day.
After making the agonizing decisions of the timing to have our cats of sixteen and eighteen years put to sleep I long had hoped that we would not have to make that decision for Max. For the last months I asked God if, when the time came, Max please could go quickly without prolonged pain or distress. For non-pet lovers it might seem strange to pray about an animal, but I believe God understands and empathizes with the things that mean a lot to us. Of course, God created humans uniquely in his image and our lives are the most valuable. God also created the beauty surrounding us to be admired and enjoyed, and that most definitely includes animals.
With the impending foul winter weather our Wednesday night church activities were cancelled and our daughter’s gym was shut down. Normally we would not have been home, but at 6:00 we were there when Max’s breathing got very heavy. Sonia always had said we had to let her know immediately if Max were dying so she could be by his side. We took turns stroking his head and telling him how much we loved him. We’ve owned several dogs but can’t help but admit, while praising the others, that Max was the best. He was one of God’s best gifts to our family. Everyone but the postal workers would agree he was laid back and sweet. After less than an hour Max stopped breathing.
He was subject to decay. As we read the apostle Paul’s words last week at Community Bible Study, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:18-22)
In his book on Romans Tim Keller writes, “For now, though, creation is ‘in bondage to decay.’ It is caught in a continuous cycle of death and decomposition. It is wonderful to see how nature’s life-giving quality continually seeks to re-establish itself, bringing new life out of death (eg. Flowers grow from the fertilizer of dead organisms). But the whole universe is deteriorating and running down, losing more energy than it can generate. Everything in nature wears down and dies. Nature is currently a killer. And so nature is a realm of pain and suffering. It ‘has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth.’ There is a relentless pain that comes from first to last, as things decay. As life is born (childbirth) and life is lost (death), there is pain and misery. In this creation, no experience is untainted by pain, even if it is only the pain of knowing that that experience cannot last. But none of this is the last word.”
Revelation 21 speaks of a “new heaven and a new earth” with God’s dwelling place among the people and no more death, mourning, crying or pain. For those mourning the major loss of a child, spouse, sibling or parent or even just that of a big white fluffy dog, God understands our sorrow. It will be a reality only in this life.