Adoption. When I was a kid, I don’t remember hearing that term used in reference to animals. But it’s common now, and I rather like it. Adoption is a strong word that suggests belonging and permanence. Dedication. Commitment.
We adopted a puppy right before Christmas.
She’s a schnauzer-yorkie mix that was seven weeks old when we got her — a trembling little ball of fur, missing her mama and siblings, and unsure of her new home and family. We cuddled her and cooed soft reassurances, and we supplied everything she could possibly need for comfort. In fact, we probably went overboard. But we had our reasons for each item we bought. A crate for training, a pillow bed for sleeping when she wasn’t confined to her crate, her own blanket to snuggle into, her own dishes for food and water, and a variety of toys for chewing and play. We bought the same healthy puppy food the breeder was using and some yummy treats for rewards. And we bought a collar, tag, and leash for identification, control, and protection.
We also bought a playpen, which is really just eight 2’x2′ panels of connected fencing that can be attached at the ends to make an enclosed play area. Right now we use it to confine the puppy to the kitchen until we can fully trust her to behave unattended on our rugs and furniture.
And of course, we gave our puppy a name. Willow.
A month into this relationship, I’m pleased with how well we’ve all adapted. Willow has learned that outdoors is the place for doing her business, and she has also learned to ring a little bell near the door when the urge strikes. She knows the word “no” and (mostly) responds appropriately when she hears it. She likes to snuggle and doesn’t show any interest in trying to escape. When we take her outside, she stays close, and she comes when we call her.
For our part, we make sure she’s up-to-date on her shots, has food and fresh water, gets plenty of exercise, and enjoys lots of loving attention. We don’t expect more from her than is reasonable, don’t blame her for accidents if we failed to take her out, and don’t punish her for behavior she doesn’t know is wrong.
Willow has been adopted into our family, and as such she enjoys the benefits of a safe home, a healthy diet, protection from a variety of dangers, and daily companionship. She has frequent access to a comfy lap (like right now as I’m typing), and is always greeted with smiles, caresses, and kind words.
I’d say she has a pretty perfect life for a dog, and she seems to agree. For the most part.
But every once in a while she stomps her furry little foot and pitches a puppy fit. She may weigh only four and a half pounds, but in those moments there’s no mistaking her determination to rule her kingdom. She refuses to come or lets out a low growl when forced to comply. She nips at our hands and other objects she knows aren’t for chewing. She struggles to break free of our grasp, snarling her disapproval at being restrained. Or she barks her offense when locked in her crate or confined to the kitchen.
We know there’s not a thing this puppy thinks she wants that would be better for her than the abundance we’re providing. And every barrier, every leash, every boundary we place on her is only for her protection and good. We train her and restrain her because we want the best for her. Because we know more than she does. Because we love her.
And suddenly, I look at her and see me.
How many times do I doubt God’s wisdom and strain against His will? How many times do I whine and whimper, oblivious to my abundant blessings, convinced that the one thing I don’t have is the only thing that will make me happy? I cast a defiant glance or let out a low growl — so completely self-absorbed in my rebellion that I lose sight of the reality of who He is and who I am and how ridiculous I’m being.
I wonder if, like me with Willow, He laughs at the absurdity of such a small, limited creature defying One who is in every way superior.
And yet, even when I’m an obstinate child, God holds me in His strong arms and invites me to trust Him. He never turns away when I call, but He loves me too much to give me everything I think I want. The leash is for my protection. The restraints are for my good.
Willow may assert her will, but she won’t get her way. Not because we’re harsh or cruel or unkind, but because we want her to be a happy, healthy member of this family for many years to come.
Adoption. It means having everything we need provided by a loving Master who always only trains and restrains us for our good. And when we resist and rebel against Him, He still loves us, because we belong to Him.
But when we obey? When we trust Him and follow Him and submit to His will? Oh, the delightful freedom and pure, uninterrupted communion we share.
We adopted a puppy named Willow. And I’m learning all over again what it means to belong and be loved by God.