Thursday, October 17, 2019

Maggie and Tucker

An Arkie's Faith column from the October 17, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

The tiny white ball of fluff raced pell-mell around the room. His ears flopped about, and his tail wagged furiously. Our Golden Retriever, Maggie, was meeting this little dynamo for the first time. The puppy jumped on Maggie and played with her tail. They had a great time together. We were happy to see that Maggie and the puppy got along so well. In less than a week, we would be picking up our new Mini Golden Doodle puppy and taking him home.

My wife could hardly stand the wait. All she could talk about was her new puppy. We spent hours going through a list of names that she had compiled, trying to decide on a name. The top contenders on the list of names were Aspen, Darcy, Bondo, and River. But none of them seemed quite right for the new puppy. My son-in-law suggested Tucker, and we decided that would be our puppy’s name. When the day finally arrived, we picked Tucker up and took him home.

Tucker was a little bit intimidated by his new surroundings. He wanted to be with Maggie. Wherever Maggie was, there was Tucker right alongside her. He wanted to jump on her and play with her. Maggie liked having Tucker there and enjoyed playing. When Tucker was tired, he snuggled up next to Maggie on her dog bed. As much as Maggie had liked playing with Tucker, by the evening, she was tired of the little bundle of energy jumping at her, climbing on her and attacking her. It was fun to play for a little while, but Maggie likes her rest. When Tucker would jump on her, Maggie would look up at us with pleading eyes. “Can’t you make him stop,” she seemed to say.

When it came time to go to bed, we put Tucker in a crate in our bedroom next to Maggie’s bed. He immediately started to howl and scratch at his crate. I have never heard sounds like he was making. It was a cross between yipping, yodeling, and howling. The amount of sound that he could make was incredible. Maggie just looked at us and refused to get in her bed. She decided to sleep in the bathroom. When she had first seen Tucker, she had loved playing with him, but now she wanted a break.

Tucker still wants to be with Maggie all the time. He no longer feels that he must constantly jump on her and bite at her, but he is never far from her. He is now content to sit next to her and lean on her or curl up with her. Maggie puts up with him but doesn’t want to be with Tucker every minute. Maggie’s relationship with Tucker reminds me of what Jesus told the church in Ephesus. “But here is something I hold against you. You have turned away from the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:4 (NIRV)

When Maggie first met Tucker, she loved playing with him. But when he came to live with us twenty-four hours a day and wanted to be with her every moment, she didn’t love him as much. Sometimes we Christians can forget how much we loved Jesus at first. When we first realize what Jesus has done for us, how much he loves us, and how much he sacrificed to save us, we are filled with love for Him. But as the years go by, our love for God can weaken.

Sometimes we allow the stress and pressures of life to control us. We get caught up in our problems and allow them to build a wall between God and ourselves. We may not even know that we are doing it. We become unhappy in our lives. We forget our first love for Jesus.

I have experienced this personally. Over a year ago my Momma passed away. I experienced powerful emotions during this time. Grief can be overwhelming, and it can heighten other emotions. I found myself dealing with extreme bitterness towards people who had mistreated my Momma. I felt that their mistreatment had been so stressful to my Momma that it had contributed to her death.

It felt like my life was spinning out of control, and I couldn’t make sense of it anymore. When you feel like you have been wronged, your feelings often intensify as you dwell on the situation. The more you think about it, the angrier you become. If you can’t get your feelings in check, bitterness can consume you. That was the mindset that I found myself in. The more I thought about the people who had wronged my family, the more enraged I became. My grief and my anger were consuming my life and making it difficult for me to cope.

I knew that I had to get my life under control somehow. I had to rein in my emotions to be able to get on with my life. I knew that the only way to do that was to focus on loving God and others. Even when I was wallowing in my grief and anger, I knew that God still loved me. I read in Psalms 56:8 (NLT) “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” I knew that I needed to rekindle my first love towards God.

Gentle Reader, nothing is more important than obeying God’s greatest commandment: to love him. And God knows you will only be able to do so if you have been loved first. 1 John 4:19 (NKJV) says, “We love him because he first loved us.” Let’s take time today to experience the love of our heavenly Father, and let his love renew within us our first love.

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