When I was in high school, my family got a dog for Christmas. We named him Bandit. He was a tiny papitese who was three pounds fully grown. He brought a lot of joy to our family.
Tuesday night Bandit was struck by a car and passed away. It was very unexpected and a terrible accident. Amongst all of the sadness, I encountered God in a way that I never had before.
Wednesday morning I came into work and was talking to my supervisor about the terrible accident that happened the night before. She comforted me as I was crying and let me take my time telling the story. She then went out to run errands and I was in the office alone. Another wave of tears came, but this time it was for a completely different reason. These tears had nothing to do with losing my dog- it had everything to do with the realization of how much Jesus loved me.
I grew up in church. I've walked with Jesus for 11 years, but it wasn't until Wednesday mid-morning that I began to realize how much Jesus really loves me. I know that I'll never completely understand how much- but I certainly got an idea this time.
I was thinking about Bandit. He was an inside dog. I belong to a family that it constantly on the run, which means Bandit was left at home alone a lot, chained to a chair in our kitchen. He also tended to bark... A LOT. Every time he heard a noise, knock at the door, door bell or see an animal outside- he would go absolutely ballistic. My family found it to be extremely annoying. There were other times where he would sit at your feet, look up at you and beg to come sit on your lap. This was usually because you had food that he wanted. Many times I would just ignore him because I didn't want to deal with having to keep him from getting into food he wasn't supposed to have.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks...
How I treated Bandit is a lot like how I treat Jesus. How many times do I try to chain God to a chair and tell Him I'll be back later- when it's more convenient for me to spend time with Him? It's a lot more than I'd like to admit. I can see Bandit in the back of my mind, stretching his leash as far as it will let him go, just to be near me. Many times he would come lay on the couch, but always having some part of his body touching me, just so he could touch me. I didn't have to talk to him, it didn't matter, he was just excited to be with me. I would come home from a long day at work, after leaving him by himself for hours, but when I'd walk through that door- he would be so excited to see me.
What a beautiful picture of unconditional love.
Jesus is the exact same way. I can ignore Him, reluctantly spend time with Him because I feel guilty or not spend any time with Him at all- but He's still there. He is so excited when I want to spend time with Him and longs for me to acknowledge Him when I'm "too busy" doing something else. He even loves it when I come into His presence, not saying a word and just sit there. He just wants to be with me all of the time, no matter what I'm doing. He longs to be my best friend!
All I could hear was Jesus saying, "Sarah, don't you see? This is how I love you. You can push me under a rug, ignore me or spend time with me out of guilt, but I still love you. I still want to be with you all of the time. Yes, it hurts when you ignore Me, but it doesn't change my love for you. I still want to be your best friend."
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
The next verse goes on to tell us that we are friends of God. He calls us His friend...He showed us the greatest love by laying His life down for us.
Since that encounter on Wednesday morning, I've even begun to view people differently...
Thursday afternoon I had my first encounter with a trans-gender. She walked through the door and clearly she was not a natural woman. I began to talk to her and after she left, I was shocked that not one judgmental thought came to mind. All I could think about was how nice she was. She was so sincere with all of her words and she even asked if her clothes were appropriate because she didn't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Then I realized that if this situation would have happened just 24 hours before, I would have been so quick to jump to conclusions about this person. That's when I heard Christ say, "I love you no more or no less than I love her... when I was on the cross, you both were on my mind." I'm so tired of seeing sins being "categorized." She struggles with her identity... well, I struggle with pride. I'm pretty sure those are both sins. No sin is greater than the other. Jesus came for the sinners... He hung out with the sinners. I hope that I can show His love to whoever I come in contact with.
"For we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." -Romans 3:23
I challenge you, before you go and make assumptions about other people, look at yourself. We all struggle with something. Jesus died so that we could be free (free doesn't mean perfect or that you won't stumble... but it does mean that we can have life in Christ, knowing that we are forgiven)!
I truly believe once we realize the love of God and what unconditional love truly looks like, we wouldn't struggle in loving other people. I have a jacked up life. Quite frankly, if I were God, I would have given up on me a long time ago. Why? Because I'm a human who has conditional love, whether I like to admit it or not. The flesh lives with conditional love, but the Spirit has unconditional love. It's a constant battle, learning to love as Christ loves. I'm so glad that He is full of grace, to take me as I am, dust me off and call me His.
Who knew that a little three pound puppy dog could teach me more about Jesus than I've experienced in 21 years.
Goodbye, Bandit. You were a great dog and I will always remember the excitement you showed every time I walked through that door. I will miss you!