As I sat down to pray and think through how I wanted to share my reflections on love, I could not help but hear a familiar sound in our house: the sound of a sleepy pup snoring. It’s one of the most soothing sounds I have come to know. If you know me, you know I share a special bond with my pups. I have the privilege of walking through life with a guide dog by my side: a partnership that changed my life and helped me to begin to comprehend what love is. If you’re not a dog person or are thinking “wow, she sounds like one of those dog people”, bear with me. 🙂
You may or may not know this about me, but I am one of those people who loves love. I love loving on people, I love the feeling of being loved, and I love the somewhat cheesy, romantic kind of love, as well as the type of love that comes with deep friendship. However, I really struggle with the idea of God equating to love. I have a difficult time seeing myself as worthy of love from an all-knowing, all-powerful God, a self-sacrificing Jesus who loves me and you so much that he gave His life for us. I grew up in a church that taught God as an authoritarian being, but I did not learn about the sheer love and adoration God has for His people.
When I was 15 years old, amidst a bit of a faith and identity crisis, I learned I was accepted to train with my very first service dog. I had no idea what to expect or what life would look like with a dog by my side. However, my world was forever changed when I met my first pup. Instantly, all of my trust and safety was placed in the four paws of a dog who I quite literally needed to trust with my life. Together, we navigated high school, college, jobs, and new cities. She loyally guided me through many phases of life for eight years until I was paired with my second pup who you see me with in church today. These dogs, as silly as it may sound, helped me begin to understand the meaning of love. Their unconditional affection and love made the idea of a loving God more realistic in my mind. These dogs, who comfort me when I am sad, who quite literally lead me home when I am lost, who are so full of joy to just be with me, and who journey through the adventures of life with me, have allowed me to grow in my understanding of love. They help me to understand how I am loved by my Creator and how possible it is to show others the same love I have been shown. I have certainly not been easy to love over the past 11 years, yet I am consistently and wholeheartedly loved by my service dogs. Their love and faithfulness to me is a mere fraction of the love our God has for us.
For anyone struggling to operationalize love, to receive and feel worthy of Jesus’ love for us, please know you are not alone, but please know you are beloved, treasured, known, and worthy to God.