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Called to care

Gather cover Octoberby Sarah Carson

Last winter I came across an online posting for a 5-month-­old puppy in need of a home.

My old hound dog, Amos, and I had lived alone together for nearly 10 years. We had a comfortable routine that wasn’t really asking to be disrupted, but staring at this lost pup’s face on the computer screen, I knew I had to at least pay him a visit.

When I arrived at the shelter the next day, a volunteer carried the trembling little dog into the courtyard, handed me the leash and left us alone. After a few tentative minutes, the dog began sniffing around. He led me to a grassy area away from all of the other visitors. I sat down, and he hesitantly let me scratch his furry little head. It was love at first pet.

Nine months later, life is a bit less adorable than it was that day in the courtyard. I’ve had to install childproof locks on the closet doors to keep little Abel away from my shoes. The footboard of my bed, the dining room rug and my favorite sandals all have the distinctive imprints of puppy teeth. In the mornings, should I make the mistake of laying an item of clothing on the bed, I have to chase him around the house and try to wrestle the item free from his mouth.

He’s a handful. He tests my limits. An outsider might observe that for all the money I’ve spent on chew toys and our army of trainers and dog walkers, the couple of snuggles I get may not be worth it. But as we know, in God’s econ­omy “worth” isn’t measured in dollars. The love spent might not be equal to the love returned, but we do it anyway, knowing love is always worth the effort.

It may seem like a stretch to say God has called me to care for Abel, but as we read in this issue of Gather, what God deems necessary can often be surpris­ing. In this month’s Bible study we learn about the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20, about the dif­ference between what seems fair to the individual and what God sees as fair for us all.

We hear from Twila Schock, who learned about the importance of relying on others as she attempted to navigate life as a new missionary in Slovakia. And in an excerpt from Joan Chittister’s Two Dogs and a Parrot: What Our Ani­mal Friends Can Teach Us About Life, we discover how our pets can provide unex­pected comfort in times of need.
“Love makes room for the unde­serving. Love looks for the lost son, the lost sheep, the heavy laden, the poor in Spirit, the poor in just plain poverty, and swoops them into the arms of God without a second thought,” writes Karen Olson in “Anything but fair.”

After reading this issue, I hope you, too, will feel swept up into the arms of God, called by that redeeming love that is free to us regardless of how little we’ve done to earn it, and willing to give love in unexpected ways. As we learn again and again this month, love doesn’t worry about what’s “fair.” And thanks be to God that it doesn’t. Sarah Carson is associate editor of Gather.

Sarah Carson is associate editor of Gather.

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