Sometimes I feel like God has the oddest ways of communicating to me. Over the last few years, one of those ways is through Arlyn. I never imagined that God would care so much about me to even care about giving me the perfect dog. By perfect, though, I mean perfect for me, not in behavior — because Lord knows he has some improvement to do in that area. But I digress. In nearly all of my most vulnerable moments, I’m overwhelmed with just how much Arlyn has become a part of my testimony; his sweet existence has hugely effected how I view God’s love towards us.
I’m writing this in the emergency vet waiting room with Arlyn after an ugly encounter with another dog. My emotions are all over the place because I’m still pretty traumatized from watching the event occur, and my heart hurts having to watch him knowing how much his poor, bruised body must ache right now.
Arlyn’s “full” name is Arlyn Wyatt, which, when put together, means “promises of strength + bravery,” symbolic of both what I needed at the time during struggles with my mental health and of what I believed about his spirit after hearing he survived parvovirus before I adopted him.
Today is not the first time I’ve watched him live up to his name’s meaning. He’s put on the bravest face and taken his pain like a champ. It makes my heart swell up and I feel so dang proud of him, but it also breaks me a little because I so wish I had the ability to take his pain away. Today, in the moments when my mind actually silenced, I could feel God showing me that that’s how He’s felt towards me. In the times where I experienced such overwhelming pain I felt mentally and/or physically crippled, He sees me through a heart of compassion and relentless love; He wants to do nothing more than scoop me up in His arms and repeatedly tell me “You are strong and you are brave, even if you don’t feel it. And when you feel weak, I will be your strength.”
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to relieve me of this. But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.” | 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
After the altercation, Arlyn couldn’t walk on one of his legs. I, at this point, was already in tears over the whole fiasco. My heart ached for him, to see him so hurt. I knew I couldn’t make it better, but I did the one thing I could to at least make it easier — I carried him, all 65lbs of him, back to my apartment and up the stairs. My muscles burned about halfway through the trip but I was going to do everything in my power to take away as much of his pain as possible. And then I was hit with the realization of how that was so symbolic of Jesus’ death on the cross.
I am in no way comparing myself to Jesus — we are clearly not on the same level. I didn’t carry Arlyn to show off my strength or to ruffle my own feathers, I did it because I knew it was the best way I could care for him even if it made me physically uncomfortable. Carrying Arlyn didn’t take his pain away, but it took away some of the burden and discomfort of having to walk on it himself. Through this, I’ve come to have a very real realization of how Christ selflessly allowed himself to be physically tortured and burdened in order to give us a relationship with the Father so He can do the same for us in our moments of pain and heartache. A relationship that wouldn’t erase pain, but a relationship where some of our pain is transferred to The One who cares about us so deeply that He wants to bear part of that burden. A relationship that in the moments of anxiety, depression, heartache, physical pains and illnesses, wants to be able to replace portions of our pain with His peace.
I never knew having such a deep love for a dog would open up a world of seeing God’s heart. I know that I would do literally anything in my power to take care of Arlyn’s body, mind, and spirit — and if that’s how I, a mere human, feels about my dog, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us and long to bear our burdens if only we would let Him by surrendering our heartaches + hurts to him? To allow Him to be part of the process, from hurt to healed? To let go of our pride and actively invite Him into our most vulnerable + rawest of moments?
Pain is inevitable, but no one said we had to carry it alone.