does he love me?

Losing my dog has been horrible. I wrote last week that I might be doing okay in a week or a month or so. One week is almost over since she passed away with her head in my arms, and it's not better. I've had incredible friends who have done so much to be there for me. My family knows how hard this is too. But God, I still just wish she was here and well and perfect and perpetually part of my life. I understand just a little bit more of what it's like when a family member dies and just the house holds so many memories that it's sometimes overwhelming. I still think I'm seeing her on the floor, still use the flashlight on my phone so I won't step on her. I can hardly handle the thought that she's not just gone for a few days, but that I will have to somehow get used to this. I don't want this to be normal. I don't want to adjust. Grief is a chain we don't want to break because it chains us to that loved one. We have a little box with a bit of her fur in it, and I can't bring myself to look inside and face the fact that this is all that's left. But in this pain, I've been beginning to learn what may be one of the most crucial lessons I've ever needed. 

If you know me and/or have been reading this blog, you know prayer has become a huge part of my life recently. Actually speaking to and listening for and hearing from God is unbelievable and is central to our humanity. I'd been spending a lot of time just listening to God every day lately. Then in the last few days before Boo passed, and this whole past week, I just stopped. I didn't realize it at first. I'd do my regular Bible reading, and then I'd just get up and leave, or I'd go through the motions of listening but mentally just couldn't do it. 

Just a few days ago, I realized that I was isolating myself from God. I was reaching out to friends for comfort that I would normally have sought from God. The grief I was experiencing felt void of God in a different way than five years ago when a friend of mine tragically died. At that time, I desperately needed God and cried out to Him even in my anger and confusion. But now, it was like I was avoiding Him, not speaking, crying alone in my room, waiting for another human. Why? 

I realized that I didn't believe God really cared about this. I felt like I was a silly little human who cared way too much about an animal, and God wanted me to get back to the important stuff. I thought God saw my grief as overly dramatic and a little ridiculous, and that He was patiently waiting for me to get my perspective back. When a human dies, there are verses upon verses of Scripture that help us grieve, understand eternity, and rejoice in the hope of resurrection. But the Bible seems silent on how to grieve for a dog, and I subconsciously believed that it wasn't important to God. Meanwhile, my loss was all-consuming for me, and thus my communication with God became almost completely silenced. 

By Wednesday, I realized there was something wrong with this mentality. I went to a prayer training at A Jesus Church, and the pastor began by asking us to picture God as our Father. I immediately picture him swinging up little me on his shoulders like a dear child, but then just after I picture him embracing little me, his tears flowing like a water fall that drenched me. And I realized that He hurts because I hurt. He made my dog. He brought her into my life. He taught me to love, and He grieves because of death and sorrow and pain. I remembered that Psalm 56 says that He stores our tears in a bottle, and that includes tears cried over a dog. I realized and consciously chose to believe these things, but even so it didn't really sink into my soul. 

Every day this week, things have been coming up to remind me of His love. I can't say these reminders have hit home yet, but I pray they're getting closer. This evening, I went to Regeneration, a young adults group through a nearby church with good friends of mine. The ultimate question of the night, which we discussed in smaller groups and prayed about, was this: What is it that keeps you from feeling God's love for you? 

If I'd been asked that question two weeks ago, I don't think I would have had much of an answer. I would have said I really felt and knew a lot of God's love for me, and I was just still learning more and more. But through this experience, I've realized just how far I have to go. I've realized how fragile my trust yet is, how little I really know God that I would doubt His love like this. 

And I thought to myself, where in all the Bible, in all of know of God, did I ever get the idea that God wouldn't care about this? The story of all history is that God loves us. While we were still sinners, He loved us and died for us. And here I was acting as if He only loved me enough when I was on His page, moving forward in the kingdom, doing great things. What a lie the devil was selling, and how subtly I had bought it. No more. 

I don't know if I've even gotten to the bottom of this yet, but I won't stop until I yet again begin to comprehend the love He has for me. Love that saved me from hell. Love that meets me every morning. Love that despises death, all death, every death, even a dog. 

And you know, I serve a God who literally came down from heaven to change the course of the cosmos and begin the restoration of the universe from the curse of sin. I know a God who conquered death, who promises that one day we will proclaim, "O Death, where is your sting?" And who knows but that this best friend of mine will be part of that bodily, New Earth resurrection too. 

I don't know what's happening in your life. Maybe tragedy. Maybe rejoicing. Maybe anxiety or anticipation or apathy or a boring old routine. Be reminded today that God loves you. He cares for every single aspect of your life, and nothing you do can separate you or degrade you  in His eyes. This is not a daisy-petal-picking chant of "He loves me, he loves me not." He loves every time. 1 John wrote God is love. And your identity is Beloved. 

My friend drove me home from Regeneration tonight and played a song for me that I'd never heard before. I think it's called Come to the Altar or something, but one line stood out to me tonight: The Father's arms are open wide. Does He love me? Yes. Do I believe it? I choose to. Do I comprehend it? Not yet. But God willing, I will. And I know God is willing. 

Please pray this Ephesians prayer for me, that I may know the love of Christ and be filled with the fullness of God: 

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


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