Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. I will rebuild you, my virgin Israel. You will again be happy and dance merrily with your tambourines.” Jeremiah 31:3-4 (NLT)
Nate and his little brother, Chris, could hardly wait for Bus 17 to arrive. Nate usually didn’t like hanging around with his little brother but today they were sharing the same excitement. They had lobbied Mom long and hard for a dog and today they were going to the Humane Society after school to pick one out.
“I want a black and white one with long hair and pointy ears,” Chris told Nate. “Or maybe a little white one with a curly tail. Or how about a big Golden Retriever that we can take for walks.” Nate smiled at his little brother. It was good to see him so excited about something.
And Nate was excited, too. He really didn’t care what kind of dog they got. He just wanted one he could pet and hug and talk to. A dog who would play with him and sit with him at his fishing spot and be his best buddy. A dog that loved him as much as he loved it.
Although both boys had promised to be responsible for the dog. Nate knew most of the work would fall to him. And that was OK, too. Since Dad had left, he had stepped up to help both Mom and his little brother in any way he could. It was extra work for him but he did it out of love.
When Mom got home from work, they headed for the Humane Society. When they got there, Chris ran excitedly up and down the aisles between the cages, pointing to first this dog and then that dog and then the one over there in the corner with the curly tail.
Nate looked in each kennel and, although there were lots of dogs, all pawing at their cages and barking for attention, he didn’t find the “right” one, the one that he knew would be his special dog. Just then one of the walkers came in with a brown long-haired dog who had the saddest eyes Nate had ever seen. The dog hid behind the walker as Nate approached and even began to shake.
“Is this dog sick?” Nate asked the walker.
She replied, “No, not sick. Just very scared of people. He’s had some bad experiences in his life and he just won’t let anybody get close to him anymore. He’s been here a long time because he doesn’t make friends with people.”
Somehow Nate KNEW that this was his dog. He bent down so that his eyes were level with the dog’s. “So sad!” Nate thought to himself. “But this dog needs somebody to love him, to teach him and guide him, to be his friend no matter what. He just needs a chance.”
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8
As Nate continued to reach out, the dog began to tentatively sniff his hand. Nate continued to talk soothingly and quietly to the dog. Soon the dog took a step forward. Then another and another until Nate could finally reach him. As Nate’s hand smoothed the brown fur, he thought he could see something change in the dog’s eyes. As if he had made a step toward faith and trust once again.
The brown long-haired dog with the sad eyes came home with Nate’s family that night. And as Nate continued to show him unconditional love, the dog began to show trust once again in people. He finally knew that it didn’t matter what had happened in his past. There were people who would love him no matter what.
By the end of the summer, the dog was chasing balls and going for walks and sitting by Nate at his favorite fishing spot. His eyes were no longer sad. Because someone had shown him unconditional love, he was whole once again.
Showing unconditional love had paid off for Nate’s family in other ways, too. Nate’s dad had returned to their family to work on rebuilding. Nate knew it was going to be hard work, but he also knew that his dad deserved a chance. As they continued to show him unconditional love, he, too, made a step toward faith and trust once again. And the brown long-haired dog with the no-longer-sad eyes, was there by his side.
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)
A Stander in Nebraska