What My Golden Retriever Taught Me About God
By Paula Kincaid, The Layman, July 2, 2010
Anyone who has visited my office knows that I am a dog lover. There are pictures of dogs taped to my file cabinet and stuffed dogs on the book case shelves. I have plenty of stories to share about my dog Abby, and family dogs Sophie and Dazey. So a book title like What My Golden Retriever Taught Me About God easily caught my eye.
What My Golden Retriever
Taught Me About God
By Rhonda McRae
Price: 11.99, Pages: 92
While it was a fun, humorous read, the book also had a serious Biblical core. It opened my eyes to something that classical theologians call analogical ways of thinking about my relationship with God. In analogical thinking we use a known experience to help us understand aspects of an unknown phenomenon.
This book might have been titled “Cat People need not read” as non-dog lovers may not reap the same blessings from the book, a point McRae acknowledge in the preface.
“Through my relationship with Sadie I’ve come to see my relationship with God in a new way. At this point, non-dog-lovers may be rolling their eyes. But stay with me a moment. Scripture makes it clear that God’s creation helps explain who God is. … [I]s it surprising that God would choose to teach me about Himself through a dog? God the creator chooses to reveal Himself – to show who He is, what He is like – through what He has made. In fact, His choice to teach me about Himself through a dog manifests the specificity of His love for me. He knew exactly how to reach me and did so lovingly.”
McRae’s parallels between her relationship with Sadie and God’s relationship with us – His children – resonated with me. The simplicity of the Sadie and McRae’s relationship helped illustrate the much deeper, stronger relationship that we enjoy with God.
Take for instance the first chapter, “Enter His gates with your tail wagging.” McRae tells about coming home after work and letting Sadie into the house: “her tail is up and wagging, her body unable to do anything but sprint at maximum speed. Around the couch! Stop! Bark! … It’s pure canine joy and I love it.”
She wonders if a golden retriever had written Psalm 100:4 would it say “Enter His gates with your tails wagging?” Sadie, McRae writes, is the living, breathing four legged example of what it’s like to “make an entrance expressing complete joy,” and then she wonders “how that kind of full-blown joy might gladden God’s heart.”
How many times have we entered God’s presence with preoccupied hearts and minds instead of 100 percent joyful worship? How often do our minds wander into trivial matters – like what’s for lunch, what’s on television this afternoon, or what am I going to wear tomorrow?
When was the last time we entered His gates with genuine uninhibited praise?
In chapter two: “Under the popcorn bowl,” McRae writes about how Sadie likes to sit underneath the popcorn bowl, since popcorn is the dog’s favorite treat, and she wants to be close to the bowl hoping someone will give her some.
“For believers who have experienced the outpouring of God’s love and forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ, is the same not true? Can’t we who have experienced the best of all possible blessings live hopefully before the Lord, trusting in His goodness and desire to bless us? … If I have a habit of routinely offering Sadie popcorn out of love and a desire to make her happy, why should I assume I am more likely to bless than God is?”
Other chapter titles and questions McRae raise in those chapters include:
- The leash of liberty: “Could it be that it is only through keeping God’ commands – wearing the leash, as it were – that we have the freedom to enjoy the very best God has for us?”
- The paw-push tail-flick: “If it is true that I never get tired of Sadie’s unique little personal request for what makes her happy, could it also be true that I don’t weary God with my requests?”
- Socks and closed door: “What are your socks? What things in your life do you know God would have you leave alone, but you persist in seeking them out regardless? … [And] what doors do our socks close?”
- Right by my side: “But how often do I enter His presence just because I love Him? Just because of how wonderful He is? Just because I want to gaze at Him? Just because I want to be with Him?”
- Rescue: “If I had been miserable just watching a movie about abandoned dogs [Eight Below], how must God feel to see so much of humanity suffering day in and day out? With His heart of love, how can God stand it?”
As McRae was writing the final pages of the book she says, “All is calm, all is bright in Sadie’s world. As for me, I am resting soundly in my Savior. Out of His great goodness, He has used a sweet, beautiful golden retriever to show me His own tender heart of love. Through this journey, I have learned to trust Him more than ever. He has quickened my hope for the days ahead. Truly my Master’s pleasure is more and more my own. And being in His presence is the best place of all.”
My hope – even for cat-people – is that all who read the book can find their own personal witness of God’s love for them.