When you’re limping along: What a now three-legged dog teaches us about persistence
Setbacks? Oof. We have all had them. Each of us has also had to figure out how to get along with much less than we did before.
And sometimes, no matter who we are, it’s just hard to get motivated to move forward.
This is all true for our family dog, Newman. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he recently made our prayer chain. He is the Trooper who jumped out of our van in pursuit of a squirrel. As a result of his leap from the passenger seat on Tuesday, May 3, he had one of his hind legs amputated.
I was driving. The kids were with me. We had just turned from Tingley Street to Nine Partners Road. Maybe we were 30-feet from the intersection of these two country dirt roads. The passenger’s window was down. The squirrel just bounced along beside the van for a moment or two.
This was all good. This was all ordinary.
And then suddenly nothing would be the same.
Fortunately, I was able to get Newman to the vet very quickly. Thankfully, Newman, who is a twelve-year-old known for deep and long naps, was nearly asleep before he could be seen. In this time in the parking lot, I wondered, “Does he even need to see the vet?”
The news of his amputation shook my soul. The kids wept and wept—and wept.
Those first hours with Newman home were new, weird, challenging, and awful. The cone around his collar didn’t help. In fact, it made his new and troubled navigation even more challenging for him.
There was no hiding the amputation. No bandage covered the surgery area. The sutures were mean looking, menacing.
And there we were. The new us. The new Newman.
The new Newman didn’t like being the new Newman. He hurt. It wasn’t just physical pain. He didn’t like what he’d been dealt.
And he didn’t understand it.
If we are honest, we don’t like (or maybe even don’t understand) our setbacks, either.
I have been a dog person all of my life. What I am about to say to non-dog people will likely sound strange. I get it. Still (and honestly), I have to share that Newman did the grief work.
You know the grief work. He didn’t move. His eyes no longer lit. His formerly happy, wagging tail went limp. So much of what made him the dog he was had disappeared.
Now he had to get around with loss—real, unavoidable loss. This was no strain or sprain. This was no, “Well, okay, this is going to be a downer for a few days.” He had to live with what he no longer had.
I share this because all of us can relate.
To say that dogs are resilient is true. But I have to say what is also true: Newman’s first week was nothing but uphill both ways, and both ways were hard. Hard. Everything hurt him—and me.
I had to live with regret. And guilt. From the driver’s seat, I was the one who actually said, “Hey, look, squirrel!” And I had the window down completely.
I had to adjust to the new image. My four-legged dog wasn’t the same. He wouldn’t be the same.
Yes, weeks later, this still hurts.
Both of us.
But rather than seeing what isn’t, Newman can teach us all to see what IS.
What is new for you? What has happened recently, or in the past, that was made you really look hard and deep at loss?
I invite you to look at this upcoming summer season around us. Everything is green and growing. From a winter where nothing bloomed, now everything blooms (or will bloom). Life is not over. Moments still matter. Hearts still sing with joy. Loving what is now isn’t half as hard as we once thought it would be.
Having Covid took me out of the pulpit on May 15th. (How blessed we are that David Schulte could give a sermon on short notice!)
The lectionary text that Sunday included what I would have preached on, Revelation 21:1-6. This text from John speaks of a new heaven and a new earth. Here John writes of Jesus’ second coming and the radical reform we will experience when Jesus is with us again. He shares his vision of what will be. A key verse we all remember from this passage is verse 4, which reads, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things will be gone forever (NLT).”
This text is futuristic. When I consider what Newman has experienced, I realized what we can all realize: this text is in the present tense, too. By no means am I challenging this text. Good things are coming! Death, sorrow, crying and pain will be no more. The great Christian hope is in Christ’s return to earth and our home forever with Him in heaven.
Where I get the present tense feeling happens not verse 4, but verse 5a. “And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making all things new.’”
It is new—now—with Newman (no pun!). The stump is new. The feel of the sutures as I carried him up and down the stairs is new. The cone. New. His immobility and now his compromised mobility. New. How he wobbles now. New. How he uses his tail to help him keep up with his fellow pack mates (we have three other dogs). New.
And God is here. Through His Son who saves IN THE NOW, God isn’t just promising some far-off comfort through Revelation 21:1-6. God is saying, “And I am here with you. I am here with you now. Right now. In the mess, in the hurt, in the grief, in the guilt.” This new heaven and new earth? It isn’t as distant as some may think. The One who sent His Son has His Son with us through every tear, every tumble, and every bad turn.
Are you hurting? Are you limping along? Are you going on three when you once had four? If so, I get it! I also get in the mud, mess and mayhem that God is not done with your story. He is not done loving you, teaching you, and guiding you more and more into what is both perfect and complete—and that’s His love for you, and, in turn, your love for Him.
If you are limping along in any way, shape or form, please join us in worship. It’s time. Continue to be a part of the faithful in the community of faith here—even (or especially) when you’re not moving as you used to move. Scripture, hymns and our community will help you. We will hold you. We will surround you with the One who heals, Jesus Himself.