My favourite scene in Marley & Me – the scene that made me ugly-cry the hardest – is when Jenny has miscarried and John is at a total loss. She’s stony silent and sad and he says (too soon) things like, we can try again, and they get home and Marley comes to her on the couch – puts his head in her lap – and she unleashes all her crushing grief on this amazing dog who just gets it.
Lola – who turned ten this week – is, has been, and always will be that dog in our lives. She’s going strong and I’m holding out for a few more good years of her lovin’.
Lola is the best dog in the universe. She travels with us and she sleeps next to our bed and she has a special happy love-growl she only does for Murray. Often when we’re alone so no one thinks I’m a freak I let her stand up tall and hug me and I croon all soppy-lovey-dovey.
She entered our lives at a time when we were drowning and didn’t really know anymore which way was up and how to swim for it. She was a gift from my parents for our blind baby boy and in those first months when his world was just shifting shadows she was his constant companion. They took afternoon naps on the carpet. She licked porridge off his face. And although she got into the habit of affectionately but disconcertingly head-butting all our visitors in the crotch, with Cameron she was only ever gentle – his own golden fleece – pure poetry.
I also wrote, after she rolled in – and ate – hadeda poo:
Life is like Lola.
Sometimes magical and miraculous. And sometimes kind of crappy.
No one is too big or too busy to wash poo off a dog because what needs to be done (truth) needs to be done (courage) and the doing is beautiful obedience.
I wondered how I might get Lola to gargle with Listerine and I thought how nothing cuts through the high ceiling of sublime philosophy quite like puke on the carpet or snot in your hair. And dogs and kids will do that. Teach you about the dirt-under-nails grit of real life that keeps us going lower like the Son of God who washed filthy feet and filthier hearts.
And there are five more things I’ve learned from Lola so I’m pausing to celebrate her, because in just a week our oldest boy turns ten too, and Lola has lived all the hard things and the happy things right alongside him.
Lola knows how to diffuse tension with authentic cheer. She’s never forced or manic. She warmly, genuinely wishes everyone well. (Except for fox terriers. She does not wish them well.) The world needs more Lolas. More well-wishers. Fewer point-provers.
Lola only barks when she has something to say. Her barks say, ‘There’s someone at the gate.’ ‘It’s suppertime.’ ‘I want to go out.’ ‘Now I want to come in.’
Sometimes I bark and it’s not even meaningful. I should at least save my barking for moments when it adds absolutely necessary value.
Lola loves unquestioningly. Unreservedly. And she doesn’t allow her imperfections to get in the way of her unrivaled devotion. She comes, always with the slow wag of great affection. Always with the bad breath and the muddy paws.
And she doesn’t seem to fear the rejection that her imperfections might herald. Perhaps because she utterly trusts that we love her anyway.
Us humans, too often we fence ourselves in behind insecurities, unwilling for others to see how we’re damaged and deficient. Maybe we’d let people in more easily – love them and lean on them – if we unconditionally accepted the truth. And the truth is we’re unconditionally accepted.
Lola is relentlessly patient. She’s patient with Joni – our younger, feistier golden retriever who tugs on Lola’s collar for almost all the daylight hours – and she’s patient with us. Whether we’re gone for five minutes or a week, the welcome is equally gracious. How might culture – the world? – change if we kept score a little less? If we all waited and welcomed people with unwearied, happy mercy?
Lola looks us in the eye. So many humans don’t do this anymore. We’re fierce with our kids about Looking People In The Eye! (Or for Cam, Looking People In The General Facial Area!)
Friends, we need to find each other’s eyes. We need to let all the people who fill our days know that they are seen – that we choose to see them. Because there’s something in people feeling seen that helps them believe in a God who sees them too.
. . .
Jaroslav Pelikan said, ‘If Christ is risen – then nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen – then nothing else matters.’ He is risen indeed! Wishing you a wonderful Easter weekend!
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