Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trooper's Eyes

I figured since this is my first blog, and my first entry in said blog, I’d write about something entirely contrary to the blog’s title. Why? It’s my blog! That’s why! See, I can still be cantankerous and still write about things counter. So what am I going to write about? LOVE. Yuck, right? Sappy? Ooey? Gooey? I can hardly believe it myself, considering the reasons I ultimately started this blog (for which the word cantankerous will certainly be fitting).

So, why love? Well, I’m supposed to teach a Sunday School class this weekend, dealing with precisely that subject in our Lent study. So in preparation, I’ve been considering what the word, the emotion, the feeling, the force that is love means to me. Of course the obvious things crossed my mind. My relationship with God, my wife, my son, my friends, my undying love for all things Oakland Raiders, or any of the delicious things baked up in a magical tree by tiny little elves. Being an aspiring novelist, I’m pretty adept of producing all sorts of flowery words, sentences, and thoughts about it. And I must be pretty good at it, because in fifteen years of marriage I’ve yet to write a card for birthdays, Valentines Day, anniversaries, or the rare occasion when I get squirrelly and decide to be sweet for no other reason that to do so, that hasn’t elicited tears from my beautiful wife. Now don’t me wrong. It’s not my prowess as a writer that garners such a response, it is because there is truth and meaning behind the words. However, I wanted something deeper, more profound for my class.

So, I went to where I usually go for my most profound thinking…Okay, not that one…the other one, the living room couch with cartoons on the high-def tv. (You haven’t witnessed Tom and Jerry until you’ve seen them in high-def) And as I laid there (okay, actually I was in search of my daily twenty minute power-nap), I looked down at my legs to notice my constant companion on the couch, Trooper, my neurotic German Short Haired Pointer.

Now, before I continue, some background on Trooper is needed, because it is vital to the story and my discovery. Trooper is an odd dog, with whom I have an incredibly odd relationship. From five o’clock in the morning, when we go on our morning trek until I go to bed at night, we are together almost every waking hour. I can’t hardly get away from him. He knows everything there is to know about me, and I know everything there is to know about him.
I can honestly say that Trooper is neither the best dog I’ve ever had, nor is he my favorite. As a matter of fact, I’ve never had a dog that can take me from calm and at peace to complete outrage and irritation so fast. In the three years that I’ve had Trooper, I can say with certainty that there hasn’t been a week that has gone by where I didn’t stop and look at him and ask aloud, “Why on earth did I ever get you?” With that said, I can also say in complete honesty, I have never loved an animal so much. I would be completely lost without the big, goofy lug. Told you it was incredibly odd relationship.

Anyhow, as I’m laying there on the couch, he’s curled up behind my legs and he grunts at me. This is Trooper’s sound of contentment. So, I look down at him and in an instant, I have found the profound truth about love I had been looking for. Staring back at me was pure, unadulterated, unconditional love. I honestly cannot put into words exactly what it was that I saw in his big, brown eyes, other than to say whatever it was, it cut me to straight to the heart. I mean, in all honesty, it hurt badly. I have never in my life had another being, human, canine, or otherwise look at me in such a powerful way. And this is someone who counts himself tremendously blessed if for no other reason than the love that I have in my life.

I mean, I look into my wife’s eyes and I see it, I feel it, I know it. But I also see, feel, and know the distractions of everything else going on in our busy lives. If you look deeply enough into someone’s eyes, you can see it all. I see her thoughts about her art, her concerns about work, our son, my health. I see her wondering how she is going to squeeze enough time out of the day for all the she feels she needs to do. I also see her wonder, as she struggles to comprehend how I did in fact get better looking since the last time that she saw me…But above all else, I see her love for me.

However, when I looked into Trooper’s eyes, I saw absolutely nothing but his love for me. He didn’t care about my many, many faults, he didn’t care that I’m usually irritated with him for one reason or another, and he didn’t care that I had ignored him ever since coming home from the store. Nor did he have any distractions in his eyes or his mind. He wasn’t wondering when we’d go for a walk again, he wasn’t wondering when we’d next do the “Spongebob Dance” (long story), he wasn’t worried about whether I was going to give him a treat any time soon. The only thing in his eyes was love, pure and simple.

And in those moments, I had new insights into God and God’s love for us. We are taught over and over about God’s love for us, its many manifestations, its many meanings/shapes/forms, none of which are more profound than “For God so loved the world…” We are taught that no matter what we’ve done, how horrible we’ve been, no matter what, God loves us, unconditionally and powerfully. For that one brief moment, in my dog’s eyes, I saw and understood God’s love.

Trooper didn’t care that I had just yelled at him that morning, Trooper didn’t care that there are times when I really don’t want to deal with him, Trooper didn’t care that it had been far too long since we’d played ball. Trooper didn’t care about anything but loving me, despite myself, my actions, and my thoughts. And in that I gained a new appreciation for God’s love.

God still loves us no matter what. No matter what we do, He is still going to love us. Whether we ignore Him, get angry with Him, question Him, act contrary to Him and the example of His Son, God still loves us and is going to continue to love us. There is absolutely nothing we can do to change that.

Looking in Trooper’s eyes, seeing and feeling that love, broke my heart. Why would it break my heart? Because I am so unworthy and undeserving of such pure, unblemished love. Can we even begin to imagine what it would be like to see the love in God’s eyes? Far more than my dog, God knows all my faults, foibles, and failures. All those things I like to ignore, deny, and generally try to hide, and yet, He still loves me in ways and magnitudes I could never begin to comprehend. When I think of this, my heart breaks again. God loves me and I truly do need to do a better job of trying to prove myself worthy of such love, even though that is an impossible task. It truly is amazing what one can learn from a dog.