James Alfred Wight (“Alf”)/pen name James Herriot (1916-1995)
(…continued) Then one day Mr. Herriot saw Mrs. Donovan and the dog. The dog was now a fine looking, healthy and strong Golden Retriever. The vet could hardly believe it was the same animal.
“Mrs. Donovan,” he said, “You have worked wonders with that dog. I am amazed.” And Mrs. Donovan proceeded to tell him about the care she had lavished on the dog right from the beginning. There were the many baths with her special shampoo, and then there was the careful feeding after a lifetime of hunger, along with the daily exercising, and then at night, a special place for the dog to sleep right in Mrs. Donovan’s very own bedroom. And of course, there were countless hours of gently combing out that hopelessly matted hair. The dog received constant love and attention and affection from Mrs. Donovan, and it clearly paid off. The dog was as healthy as any Mr. Herriot had ever seen. That was the beginning of many happy years for that dog as Mrs. Donovan’s pampered pet.
As James Herriot thought about this woman and her dog, he was struck by the dramatic change that came into that dog’s life. All that dog knew for the entire first year of its life was darkness, deprivation, loneliness, neglect, hunger, and filth. It had never experienced anything else, and it had no way of even knowing how deprived and miserable it was. And then, one day that dog was taken out from all of that, and in an instant that dog was transported into an entirely different life; a life of care and good feeding, light and exercise, and constant loving companionship. What a tremendous and wonderful transformation that must have been for that dog! And to think, if Mrs. Donovan had not been standing outside that door, the dog would have been put to sleep without ever knowing any of that love or concern. She saved that dog. Mrs. Donovan was, we might say, that dog’s Savior.
In the first chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul praises his Savior, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Paul says Jesus chose us, and he has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing. In verses seven and eight, Paul says we have received redemption through Christ’s own blood, through which we have received the forgiveness of our sins, and by that Christ has lavished on us the riches of God’s grace. Lavished is the word in verse eight. Along with that, God has worked out everything for us, guaranteeing our inheritance in eternity. It is in Christ our Savior that we know the truth, have our hope, live in his love, and know the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us. Blessing upon blessing, lavished upon us, who, without Jesus, would have nothing and be without hope.
James Herriot’s story of that Golden Retriever a wonderful image of our life and hope in Christ Jesus, our Savior. That dog had two lives: the miserable life in that shed before Mrs. Donovan, and then the wonderful life after she lavished her care upon him. And we also, according to God’s Word, are promised two lives: the life we live now, here on this earth, and, the life in heaven with God. And though our lives here are usually not as desperate as that dog’s life in that old shack, we do all get our share of misery, and, just like that dog, we don’t know anything else. At a very young age, we learn to expect that life is filled with danger, disappointment, illness, sadness, and death. When something bad happens, we might even say, ‘Well, that’s life!’ That’s all we know, and even on our best days and in our happiest times, we know it won’t last. We know it can all be gone in an instant. One day in our future, it most certainly will all be gone. But that’s life, right?
But, says Jesus in John chapter 14, someday “I will come back to this place for you, and I will take you to MY heavenly home, so that where I am, you may be also.” And what a change that will be for us. Paul had a vision of that wonderful place and wrote that it will be far more wonderful than anything we could ever even imagine here. It is, he wrote, far beyond what any eye here has ever seen, or any ear has ever heard of. In 2 Corinthians chapter nine Paul refers to this surpassing grace of God, and then words fail him and he bursts forth in praise saying, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
James Herriot said that when he first saw that dog it seemed content. It seemed very accepting of its poor condition, having not ever known anything else. We also cannot even imagine a life without danger and death and fear and sadness always threatening, always lurking around every corner. The apostle John had also been given a vision of heaven, and in the book of Revelation he described it as a place of no sadness, no tears, no grief, and no death, a place where God himself will live right with us. It is in this hope that Paul could write those enthusiastic words of praise in Ephesians, thanking God for all the wonderful blessings that he has lavished upon us and will lavish upon us.
This life is also a gift of God, and God gives us many good days here. There may even be days we are so richly blessed that we may not even feel the need for these future promises of God. In those good times we may be tempted to forget all about God, and say like that old beer commercial, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” But we do know that not all days will be like that. There will be other days when everything seems dark and hopeless, and your life is full of misery and grief and pain, and you feel like ‘nothin’ but a hound dog.’ On those days remember that we are, in many ways, like that poor dog in that old shack, but there is a another whole world prepared for us. One day, our Savior will come to get us and take us to that place. And on that dying day we will have no more to fear than that dog had to fear Mrs. Donovan untying him and gently taking him from the only home he had ever known. A whole new and wonderful life was awaiting that dog; and a life beyond imagining awaits us.
Ephesians 1:7-8 — In him (Christ Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
II Corinthians 9:15 — Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Ecclesiastes 12:1…7 — Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”… and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Let our chief goal, O God, be your glory, and to enjoy you forever. –John Calvin