Sunday, June 10, 2012

Angel By Your Side

“I’ll be the angel by your side
I will get you through the night
I’ll be the strength you can’t provide on your own
‘Cause when you’re down and out of time
And you think you’ve lost the fight
Let me be the angel
The angel by your side...”

                It’s been an interesting week. Interesting...and sad. We suffered a loss in our horse “family” on Friday, when Legend’s pasturemate Gallant fell ill with sand colic. He declined so quickly that the vet was unable to save him.  The death of this beautiful, gentle black gelding has affected all of us. He was not actually our horse, but we have watched our friend Kara grieve the loss deeply. Besides, we had grown to love him, too. The kids affectionately called him “Emo Horse” because of one large strand of mane that was always in his eyes. When we would arrive at the pasture, Gallant was always standing by the fence, a small distance from the other horses, just watching. Silently protective, he was the leader of the herd. Now he is gone, and there is a hole in Kara’s life.

                In my son’s college biology class, life forms are reduced to atoms and molecules and strands of DNA. Breaking it all down like this shows both the simplicity and complexity of life. But DNA cannot account for so many things that are present within human beings, or even within animals. What causes a horse to be able to know and bond with its owner? How can a horse or dog know when we are feeling sad and lonely? How do they know do give comfort to a friend in need? All of the scientific studies in the world cannot truly explain the connection that human beings have to their pets-or, indeed, to one another. If Darwin’s theory were followed to its logical conclusion, life forms at their peak of evolutionary perfection would be similar to the monster in Alien- living machines that kill and destroy with no thought, no reason, just an instinct to survive. Yet we are not that way, nor we were ever intended to be.

                We were not designed to deal with death. In the beginning, everything was perfect, and human beings and animals were all meant to live forever. Then sin entered the world, and...well, you know the rest of the story. With sin came death and disease and sorrow. The biggest flaw in the evolutionary theory for the Christian is that, in order for evolution to be achieved, millions of organisms would have to die. Even if you believe in the long-day theory or the gap theory, death would still have had to happen before the Fall. Thus, it makes no sense. But there is, for me, another flaw. We are made up of beautiful things far too complicated to be accidental. Scientific theory doesn’t truly explain acts of heroism, self-sacrifice, and love. It does not really explain human emotion. I mean, after all, a pet dog or cat or horse is an awful lot of trouble. Why would we be bothered with such trivialities in the absence of Something greater? Why would we keep animals around us that don’t do one thing but provide companionship and aren’t going to be a food source? The answer is that our need for companionship was put into us by the Creator, and He created animals like the dog and the horse to answer some of that need.

                In my lifetime I have owned many pets of all kinds. Kara has described her Gallant as a friend and companion, something far more to her than “just a horse”. Whether he was acutely aware of her feelings or whether she simply projected this onto him is truly irrelevant. The point is that God put him there in her life to be an angel of sorts. An angel by her side. I have had quite a few of those. When I was young, my dog Misty was the angel by my side. I could talk to her and she would listen when no one else would. What I realize now is that my “conversations” with my dog at the age of seven or eight were often heart cries to God. As I grew older I never stopped talking to my animals, and my experiences with God’s Creation were a way of relating to Him. I had a beagle, Sam, who I know was a gift from above. In the absence of my father, Sam helped fill a void. Oh, he didn’t fill it completely. No one and nothing ever could. But he certainly helped.

                I cannot explain the love I have for my children. The scientific theory of natural instinct is blown out of the water in my case, because I did not give birth to them and they were far past the stage of being tiny and helpless when they came into my life. And certainly the love that continues to exist between couples well past the time for procreation defies anything “scientific”.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made, with atoms and molecules, amino acids and RNA, perfectly designed, in a sense-but none of us are perfect. Yet we love one another in spite of imperfections. That is the God part of us. That spark of the Divine enables us to think, dream, communicate, and love. God loves us unconditionally, and in Him we can love one another in the same way. In fact, we can even love a goldfish. I was once very attached to a goldfish named Pisky. I had had her for almost two years when Hurricane Ivan came and knocked our power out for eight days. I tried desperately to keep Pisky alive, but she died on the fifth day, and I cried. Why? It was only a fish. But I felt Something. There is absolutely no scientific explanation for loving a goldfish. She certainly was not capable of loving me. I was simply The Giant Hand that fed her every day and The Giant Eyeballs that watched her swim around in her tank. As far as I know, she felt no affection for me. It occurs to me that maybe we treat God the same way at times. He is the Giant Hand that doles out pleasure and pain, the Giant Eye that’s always watching, waiting for us to mess up. That’s what we think, sometimes, but it’s not true.

                If God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t be bothered in any way with us. I think those who resort to deism or atheism often do it because they are afraid. First of all, they don’t believe it can be that simple. Secondly, if they really understand that God’s grace is extended despite our wickedness, then it puts them in an awkward situation. You see, if God’s grace is unearned, if we don’t have to work for it, then we have a dilemma when something bad happens. We have to accept it despite our questions and our anger and our sorrow, because we never had anything to bargain with. God gives us everything, and we must then, like Job, learn that He is not required to explain anything to us-because He is God. Of course we get mad at Him and we do question and scream at the unfairness of it all, but fortunately He is big enough to take it. Were I saying this from a position of someone whose life had been relatively without suffering, maybe I could be dismissed with, “Yeah, easy for YOU to say.” Actually, it is not easy for me to say at all. It took a long time for me to get here, and I often go back, because I am human and I don’t like to lose people I love, or have financial problems, or be betrayed by those I trusted, or have physical sickness and pain. I don’t have to like it. I just have to trust that I am too small and limited to see The Big Picture, but that God is in control.

                There was never a promise, ever, that the Christian life would be easy and trouble-free. What the Bible says is, “In this world you WILL have trouble-but take heart; I have overcome the world.”  When Kara said to me, “I hate death,” I could only echo the sentiment. I could not disagree with her. Most of us hate death. We don’t understand it and we don’t want to deal with it when it comes. God is good, and so when bad things happen, He is there to hold us. He sends angels to be by our side, and some of my angels wear fur. I dread the day when I will have to face the loss of Miney, who I am convinced is God’s emissary in the form of a small brown dog. I have said harder goodbyes than that, but each loss brings to mind all of the other losses. For Kara, Gallant was connected with seven years of memories, and so his death represents much more than simply a pet horse. I pray that God will send another angel to be by her side. I feel certain He will. He always, always does.

“There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of one small candle.”

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