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My boyfriend got a puppy this week.
He bought her a few weeks ago and finally got to bring her home on Monday. When I walked through the door, they were both sitting on the couch – William and a not-so-little ball of floof curled up next to him, tail thumping the cushion as I walked over to introduce myself.
For the rest of the day we watched as she eased into her surroundings. The couch quickly became her domain, the place she retreated to and expected us to accompany her to, whimpering when we failed to oblige. She never fully settled into sleep, always breathing hard, always alert at the first sign of movement. The first time we took her out on the deck she was pretty constantly in one of our laps, venturing only a few steps when we encouraged her to explore before running back to us and sticking her nose in our hands.
We were also adjusting to and familiarizing ourselves with her. Throughout the day we tried on different names for her, scanning lists for something we both liked and using it for an hour or so to see how it fit. Nothing quite seemed to stick, so she remained (in my conversation with her at least), “pupperz” and “baby girl.”
As the day wore on, however, we both started growing in our certainty of the other. When we brought her back out to the deck in the afternoon, she barely gave us the time of day, running from one side of the deck to the other, playing with her rope toy, exploring each corner, frolicking and at ease. By the end of the day we were calling her “Maggie,” and we’re still calling her that today. And when I called to check in on Tuesday morning, William happily reported that Maggie had slept the whole night through, tuckered out, I imagine, from the stress of the day, but hopefully also feeling a bit safer after a full day in her new home.
In between puppy snuggles and walks on Monday, I was texting and emailing with family of a dear friend and former colleague who had died the night before. They had asked me to sing at her funeral next week, and so on my drive home that night I listened to some options. I listened a few times to the song, “I will be there” (originally “Ik zal er zijn”) by the Dutch group Sela. It’s a song of comfort in the present, and hope for the future. The third verse reads, “My hope for the future is certain, I know. You stand by me Jesus; You never let go. When heaven awaits me, I kneel at Your throne. You welcome me Jesus, You take me home.”
With tears in my eyes as I drove the 401, I thought about these two different experiences of homegoing. I thought about the frantic, uncertain energy of the puppy, brought to a strange place with a strange person, feeling at once stressed and anxious about the newness, but also willing to seek reassurance in the lap of a person she barely recognized. I thought about the puppy’s un-namedness – about our need to discover who she is so we might find the name that fits.
And I imagined the homegoing of my friend. A homegoing to a place that would be startlingly new and also achingly familiar. Home to dwell with the One who has been her constant companion. Home to stand before the One who knew her name before she was born, who knew exactly who she was and would be. This kind of homegoing holds no anxiety, no uncertainty…just the perfect knowledge of held-ness and rest.
The sun was setting as I drove and listened and thought about home. It peeked around low-hanging clouds, causing the yellow fields and green trees to pop with vibrancy against the darkening sky. I grinned through the tears. It felt as though God were saying, “I’m here with you, now, too. Home is wherever I’m with you.”
And I wondered – and have kept on wondering this week – what it means to feel at home with our God. If we feel like we are at home with our God.
Do we live with a frantic, uncertain energy, constantly alert for the first sign of trouble, ready to bolt or bark when it all feels too much?
Or do we know that we are known? That we have a constant, faithful companion? That even as we wait for the day when we dwell in a place both startlingly new and achingly familiar, we are at home in God, for God is with us?
Maggie still whines when William disappears from view. It will take her a while to trust that her human will always come back to her.
But we have this promise, now and for the future:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”