I like it when things are black and white. I often say that I have an opinion about everything, and I recognize that my opinions are often shaped by a worldview that shuns gray-areas. This week, I have been grieving a loss, but I am uncertain how this kind of loss fits into my life as a follower of Christ. If you follow this blog, you have undoubtedly seen pictures of Quigley, the Standard Poodle who brought joy to my parents, and the whole family, for more than eleven years. He was intelligent, affectionate, energetic, and fun. It is difficult to process that he is gone.
I feel strongly that animals should not be placed on the same level as humans. Scripture is clear that only people have eternal souls and an eternal destiny, and thus a need for salvation through Jesus Christ. I feel strongly that as a Christian, I should invest my time and treasure in saving people’s souls rather than saving animals in some way. This does not mean that I want to see animals abused or mistreated, but rather that I feel led to invest in people, first and foremost. Still, it is clear that God created some animals to be special to us.
Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
When I read that none of the animals were suitable helpers for Adam, it surely doesn’t mean that none of the animals could be helpful to man, at all. It was God’s plan to create woman and give people marriage as a model for His Kingdom. Clearly, God meant for man to have woman as a helper that was on his level. But He also gave us animals which are able to help in lesser ways. My favorite examples are dogs and horses because they are so willing to be useful to man. They will accept people as part of their pack or herd, and they demonstrate affection and loyalty. Though temperaments vary, when these animals are trained to do work, they are generally eager to do it, eager to please, and eager to be rewarded. Whether an animal is a pet, a co-worker, or something in between, their loyalty and affection causes us to treasure the special relationship.
The older I get, the more I am amazed at God’s creation with its interesting plants and animals. In my little part of the world, I am fascinated by snails and amused by squirrels, even though the snails eat my plants and my father has assured me that squirrels are a destructive menace. I enjoy watching the hummingbirds and butterflies that I see frequently. In my backyard, I have a very confused bell pepper plant that is growing fruit, even though it is technically winter. All around is the wonder of God’s creation. Last weekend, I was visiting my parents in the High Desert, where I grew up. I don’t think I fully appreciated the unique beauty when I lived there.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end.
I spent much of last Sunday helping my father dig a hole. I am still not certain whether the difficulty digging was more due to the hardness of the ground or the grim purpose. On breaks, I would go into the house to check on Quigley, who was both disoriented and having mobility problems. Time and again, we would have to help him get up, take him back to his bed, and make him lie down. On a trip outside, he collapsed near a cholla cactus. As I pulled spiny, spherical clumps of cactus off of him, he didn’t seem to know what was happening. It was heartbreaking. Is this another thing that God created us for? Certainly, animals can add joy to our lives, and I know that God desires us to be happy. We develop an emotional attachment, but their time with us is limited. They become a reminder of the life-cycle that God established on earth. We remember that our own mortality is certain, but also that we are different. God has placed eternity in our hearts.
There are many parts of our life on earth that are difficult to understand. There is a mystery in how God created man to be distinct from the other animals, to have reason and free will, and yet to be under His sovereignty. Ephesians 2:10 states, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,” but I can’t explain how our stewardship of plants and animals fits into this. I hope someday to have the joy of another Standard Poodle in my life. God has given us these things on earth to enjoy, but I believe the focus of my life’s energies should be people. I received an email from Compassion International, yesterday, to let me know that my new sponsor child now knew my name. I watched a video on their website about the joy and hope this brings for the children and their families; it brought the week into perspective for me.