Tomorrow is my birthday. This is my first birthday where I am so far away from my current home. But then also, I am home with family and friends in Ghana. So, the question is... where is home? Thankfully, I do not have to choose where my allegiance lies because each family across the Atlantic loves me in a particularly distinct and fulfilling way. All through the many years of my life, I have been blessed by love so preciously inviting, sustaining, and life-giving that I would not trade it for any other.
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am far away from Columbia. It was not by design; it just so happened that I could not miss an important event in our family. I have a much broader sense of family, and with it comes the burden of juggling between competing family obligations. It is not always the case that one obligation is important than the other, but what I have come to find out is that whether big or small, members of a family can stick together in any and all situations and that they could muster the devotion, loyalty, and unconditional love - similar to that of a dog for its master.
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I want to write about dogs - primarily for their sense of devotion, loyalty, and unconditional love. Many are the wonderful stories I have heard over the years about dogs, and I am sure you have your own story about your dog(s). If you do, please share it with me, as I’d like to hear it.
In fact, there’s actually a dog bedtime prayer:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
The king-sized bed is soft and deep.
I sleep right in the center groove,
My human beings can hardly move.
I’ve trapped their legs, they’re
tucked in tight,
And here is where I pass the night
No one disturbs me or dares intrude,
Til morning comes and “I want food”
I sneak up slowly to begin,
And nibble on my human’s chin.
For morning’s here, it’s time to play,
I always seem to get my way.
So thank you Lord, for giving me,
This human person that I see.
The one who hugs me and holds me tight,
And shares their bed with me at night.
Of all these stories, there is one that I read a few days ago, which appeared on the Judge Judy television show. This little dog, who had known so much affection from her owner, was stolen and sold to another person. The woman who bought the stolen dog loved her as much as she could - just like the former owner, if not more.
The story does not really elaborate on how the two - the original owner and the new owner - chanced upon each other, but the original owner of the dog sued the new owner to get his dog back. And, in true Judge Judy fashion, she let the dog loose in the court for the dog to figure out where she really belongs. The dog did not waste time to run to the original owner, and that, for Judge Judy, was more than enough for her to rule on behalf of the original owner.
That story reminds me of one of the important pieces of jurisprudence that labeled King Solomon as being the wise king: There were two mothers who lived in the same house. Each one of the mothers had an infant son. One of the women accidentally smothered her son. But each claimed the remaining boy as her own child. The case was brought to the king’s attention. In his wisdom, the king called for a sword and declared that the baby was to be cut into two, with each of the feuding women receiving half of the body.
One of the mothers did not contest the ruling, declaring that if she could not have the baby then neither of them could, but the other begged Solomon, "Give the baby to her, just don't kill him!"
The woman who was the real mother fought for the life of the baby, "Do not kill the baby," she said. The woman who was not the real mother fought as well, but not with the intent of saving a life, but instead of ending a life, hoping that both women would be in the same position. How cruel can one be, that in your own grief or loss, you can believe that another person’s grief or loss would somehow make life better for you. The king immediately saw through the woman’s depravity. She was neither compassionate nor loving enough to embrace another person’s happiness as her own, but rather too vile to accept her own mistakes.
Tomorrow is my birthday, and it will mark a significant milestone for me. Someone asked how I feel being this "young." I responded that I am not sure or know how I got to where I am, but that I feel that I live life as a devoted and loyal pastor who loves unconditionally. This is how I feel, living a life shaped by gratitude, grace, and honor. This is how I feel, living a blessed life that honors my own circumstance - however good or bad it may be - and always looking at the brighter side of life.
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I cannot thank my family and friends across the Atlantic, and the faithful people of Christ Church who have blessed me with more than I could ever imagine or desire.
You and I are far away from being dogs, but if there is anything we can learn from them, it is their sense of devotion, loyalty, and unconditional love, as these qualities make the world a much better place.