120 Stinky Pounds of Love and Change


 “ I love you. You are my prince. I’ve never loved a big stinky creature so much in my life!” 

I’m rubbing the side  of Grizzly’s long nose and scratching his ears as I sit in an Adirondack chair on the deck overlooking the lake. Grizzly sits on his haunches and we are now eye to eye.  And then I say, “….but then I’ve never needed one as much as I need you.”  As I’m saying it, I realize this is a prayer.   What I’m saying to my German Shepherd, I’m also saying to Jesus, except maybe that ‘stinky creature’ part. My love is in proportion to my need.

I did not want it to be this way - love and need so directly correlated. All these years that I have prayed to love God more, and I’ve gone about trying to answer my own prayer with learning. I tried to fill my head with knowledge about Him, thinking the more I knew the more I would love. 

I forgot that knowledge puffs up, at least the kind of knowledge I usually pursue.  Paul warned the Corinthians about this. 

Then life got harder. The beginning of 2018 took an unexpected turn and left me needier than I had ever been in my life.  My old narrative, “Leah’s not scare of the devil himself,”  fell apart. My false self, aka Julie the Cruise Director died.   Relationships with people that were based on her got tricky if not difficult.  Some people liked my false self better than the emerging true one. 

Even as I healed from trauma and regained my life, I was losing part of it - old ways of living,  being and relating. Those losses brought another set of questions and challenges into my life.  I needed  Jesus more.   

At times I wanted to ‘return to normal’ - to my old self - the mind-over-matter/ push-through-it girl I used to be, but when I tried to turn around there was nothing to go back to.  She didn’t exist anymore.  I’m a new, needier, slower-moving person now.

Mercy is new every morning, we’re told.  I wrote a book with that title but I’m not sure I understand all that it means.  Are change and transformation a form of mercy?  Is my deepening need a mercy?    Like everything else He created and loves, we are growing and changing and moving toward something all the time. To think we can return to anything in the past is to believe a lie.  

Grizzly was 92 lbs when I got him in March of ’18.  Now he weighs 120 lbs.  There is no going back to that lean puppy version of him.  He grew.  I grew.  He changed.  I changed.  I’m asking questions this year that I have’t thought to ask before .  I’m letting my life change. 

To push back against change and growth is like trying to dam up a river.  With enough energy and resources, it can be done; but unless there’s constant maintenance, eventually (and eternally), it will be futile.   I can’t live in that kind of tension, trying to block inevitable movement , erosion, and transport. Scary as it is, I consent to the flow. I pray the welcome prayer.  I say a holy ‘yes’.  The current of God’s spirit in my life is allowed and welcomed, even invited when I am feeling really brave.  

Maybe ‘big stinky creature’ works after all.  There’s a cost to needing a dog the size of Grizzly who loves the water. In the backyard fountain or at the lake, he is often wet. He loves to swim.   His undercoat rarely dries properly except for the seldom trip for a  bath and blow dry with the professional groomers.  He usually smells.  I pay this cost because I need him. 

There’s a cost to needing Jesus, too.  He makes all things new.  Every day. Continuously. It’s happening whether I notice it or not, whether I  want it or not.  Sometimes my newness doesn’t fit in an old pattern, place or relationship. That’s hard and costly.   But the depth of my need is the depth His love will descend in me. And the more I receive that love, the more I love Him in return.