My friend Ann was driving through the cemetery in the blazing heat one summer afternoon and her heart was heavy with grief. Her father had died four months before and nothing could shake her of the sense of loss – until suddenly, there was an interruption.
A pitiful, abandoned little Chow Chow was wandering through the cemetery, panting in the heat.
Ann couldn’t help herself. She had to do something.
Ann drove home, got water and returned to the cemetery where she found the parched puppy. The sight of water didn’t motivate the dog to come closer though. It instead looked upon Ann with suspicion from across the cemetery.
Later on that day, Ann returned to the cemetery with dog food, water and her husband, Jimmy, in tow. Sure enough, the little dog was still there, lying next to a gravestone.
Though the dog skirted away at the sight of his benefactors when Ann and Jimmy returned the next day, the food was gone and the puppy was eyeing them from a distance. It didn’t come close but it didn’t run away this time.
Over the next few days, the puppy cautiously closed the gap until finally, it came up to Ann and Jimmy and rolled over for a tummy rub. Ann and Jimmy gasped. There were so many fleas on the dog’s underbelly that they couldn’t see the skin. And yet, the next morning, Jimmy came back to drop off more food.
After Jimmy patted the dog on the head and began to drive away, something in the rear view mirror caught his eye. The dog was running after the car.
Jimmy put on the brakes and opened the door.
“If you want to come with me, jump in,” he said.
And so she did. The puppy, whom Ann and Jimmy would eventually name Spooky, was home.
In the following years, Spooky would rarely draw near to anyone other than Ann and Jimmy, but even they had to be careful about making sudden moves or Spooky would jump with fright. No wonder – the veterinarian who examined Spooky after her rescue said that she had clearly been abused. Spooky, like so many broken people, had learned not to trust and she never forgot that lesson.
We’re all in need of a rescue as we wander the dry places – the emotional cemeteries where we feel abandoned and parched. And then Jesus, like Ann and Jimmy, comes along and offers what we’re hungering and thirsting for more than anything: unconditional love.
As inviting as that sounds, so many of us run away. We struggle to trust because we’ve learned the hard way that people can’t be depended on, that actually, they can be very cruel. We keep our distance, but if we keep coming back to Jesus, we’ll discover that He keeps coming back to us as well.
“If you want to come with me, jump in,” He says with kindness in His eyes.
It may seem insulting for the reader to be compared to a dog – unless you’ve looked at what Scripture actually compares us to: sheep, one of the dumbest, dirtiest animals in the world (Isaiah 53:6). And yet, there’s good news: Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd (John 10:11-18).
Yes, Jesus is our Ann and Jimmy – the key difference being that Ann and Jimmy didn’t have to die in order to rescue Spooky. Jesus, the good Shepherd, laid His life down so He could give us a home and make us beautiful.
I recently asked Ann if she and Jimmy wanted to leave Spooky behind after they found her tummy crawling with fleas.
“Goodness no,” she said, “it made us want to help her more.”
Love doesn’t shrink back when it sees the grotesque things that cling to the object of its affection – it draws closer. Jesus draws close to those awful things in us as well; and if we will follow, His love will take us home.