Gentle Giant

Ashley, our wonderful Duke Divinity School summer intern, gave the sermon yesterday – so this week I’m sharing an article I wrote for the Andrews Journal on 6/26.  

DysonWe once had a dog named Dyson who was big and shy.

Dyson was a rescue.  A neighbor told us that we ought to go look at the cute puppy she found wandering the streets of Waynesville.  When I went to the shelter, I fell in love immediately with the only dog sitting quietly among all the barking (and meowing) animals.  The volunteers told me that Dyson was some kind of boxer mix who would grow to be a mid-size dog.

My husband says that as soon as he saw Dyson’s elephant-size paws, he knew this was no “mid-size” dog.

Eventually, Dyson grew into a 95-pound a giant.  Although there are some dogs bigger than Dyson, there aren’t many dogs bigger than Dyson.  People often asked us if he was a Great Dane or a Mastiff.  On more than one occasion I mistook him for a deer from a distance.

But our giant was a gentle one.  Dyson’s circle of trust was limited to my husband, my mother-in-law, and me.  When other people came to our house, he would give two or three loud, deep barks before retreating to the guest room.  The bed there would thump up and down as Dyson clawed his way underneath to stay hidden and secure until the coast was clear again.

We socialized Dyson.  We had our visitors give him treats.  We coached our friends to avoid eye contact and let him come to them.  Over the years, the best result we got was that he would allow a few people to pet him; but we were never able to convince Dyson to trust people instead of fear them.

More than once I had similar thoughts to what author Philip Yancey had about his pet:  “If only I could tell him not to be afraid.  Maybe if I could become a dog, then I could let Dyson know that the people who come by won’t hurt him, but only want to love him.”

Did our God have the same thought when sending Christ?

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” John 1:14 says.  God came down and lived with us as Jesus Christ.  God spoke with a human voice about God’s love for us.  Then, best of all, God showed us that love:  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16).

Dyson never did learn to love and trust other people.  If you have ever felt alone, or afraid, or as though God is far away, turn to the One who was willing to become one of us so that we might know God’s love.


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