Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Velcro Dog

"You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen" (Deuteronomy 10:20-21).

Once upon a time, nearly half my lifetime ago now, I worked for an elementary school as a teaching assistant in special education. The team leader, who made our schedules, took great care to ensure that no student worked exclusively with any given staff member. The students needed to learn to respond to all of us. The teacher's shorthand way of reminding us of this was to say, "No Velcro buddies." She didn't want any of the children to stick to one of us like the opposite sides of hook-and-loop tape. Sometimes this proved challenging, as with one precious boy who wanted always to be with the other teaching assistant. He loved her like a grandmother. He stuck to me, on the other hand, like I was a plate-glass window, but we kept working at it, and he did grow more responsive with me.

Fast-forward a dozen years to the time we adopted Ebony. It was our intention that he would be "our" dog, the successor to Allen's special dog Somo and my aging, ailing dog from before marriage, Steinway. Ebony, however, missed that memo. He and I had a special connection from the beginning. When my autoimmune disease flared up badly after his first 2 years in our home, I became mostly homebound. The constancy of that companionship bound us together even more.

Now, he is like my shadow (which would have been a good name, but we didn't know that in 2008). If you want to find Ebony, find me and he's probably nearby. For the last 7 years I haven't been able to walk our whole route with Amore and Ebony. After all that time, Ebony still pouts and lags behind for the first half of their walk, then picks up speed when they head for home. And if I am able to go meet them on the way home, well. The enthusiasm of his greeting makes my happy pooch out.

If I leave the room for longer than 10 seconds, I can pretty much count on hearing his claws click on the wood floors, coming to find me. If I'm sitting where he can sit next to me, he probably is.

If I'm in my study, he's in his nesting bed. (Blanket and Kong optional.)

If I'm on the loveseat resting, he's either next to me or in another chair in the same room. If Amore and I are both there (score!), he's most content between us.

If I'm in the shower, he's... Okay, his loyalty has its limits. Water is one of them. If I'm in the shower, he's either stretched out across the doorway guarding me or on the bench just outside. Even if the bench means using my stinky ankle and knee braces for his pillow.

 If I'm on the back patio, he's there.

If I'm in the pool, he's... Well, there's that water issue again. He wants to be outside with me as long as he can stand the heat, then a little while longer, usually on his outdoor bed in the shade under the fan...

...but sometimes as close to me as he can get without the risk of being thrown in the pool.

You get the idea. It's safe to say that he's my Velcro buddy.

Around the time that I first learned that phrase, I read Psalm 63, which scans like a love poem from David to the LORD. Verse 8 says, "My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." Next to these words, I wrote, "I want to be Your Velcro girl."

Then I began to take note of that same idea throughout the Scriptures:

*in the Torah (Law, Pentateuch):
"You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen" (Deut. 10:20-21).
"You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him" (Deut 13:4).

*in the history books:
"But you are to cling to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day" Josh 23:8).

*in the Psalms:
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name" (Ps 91:14).
cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame! (Ps 119:31)
Psalm 84 as a whole makes clear that the Lord's presence is David's happy place, even though the terms "cling" or "hold fast" do not appear.

*in the Prophets:
"'For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen’" (Jer 13:11).

For reference, the Old Testament word most often translated "cling" or "hold fast" is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 for the husband holding fast to his wife.

The New Testament reiterates that the husband ought to hold fast to his wife. Jesus, in the parable of the sower, also says that the good soil represents "those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15). Paul exhorts us to "Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good" (Romans 12:9).

It seems that godly people throughout Bible times sought to be God's Velcro people. This bond extended to His Word and to what manifests His goodness.

Is that really what I cling to? Or does my Velcro stick more firmly to my husband or family or comfort? The way I react when deprived of something reveals how clingy I am, and "stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things," to quote the late Rich Mullins. A soul created in the image of God is designed to cling to Him. Even the best created beings and things disappoint when we look to them to be our everything. Good friends, loving spouses, and dream homes make lousy gods. The Lord is the only one worthy of our Velcro dependence.

So I keep praying, "Lord, I want to be Your Velcro girl. I'm not there yet, but I want to make David's prayer truthfully my own."
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me (Ps 63:1-8).

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