I recently rescued a puppy and as dogs always do, she’s teaching me a lot about life. Dogs have countless lessons to teach us and I’ve written on this subject before, but puppies, I’m finding out, have even more!
As a rescue, I’m unaware of what life was like for my puppy before coming to me. She has a lot of trust and anxiety issues, as many rescue dogs do. I have another dog, who has been with me since he was born, and the three of us have been in constant negotiation since the new puppy’s arrival. It seems with every new experience, the dogs are working amongst themselves to figure out who’s the boss. Whether it’s a bed, chew toy, food, or my attention. They’ve spent the greater part of our first few weeks together determining which one of them gets what, and when. The puppy will even try to play this game with me. She wants to know who’s boss.
It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert.
“There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. ‘How much do you love me?’ And, ‘Who’s in charge?'” (Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love)
Raising a rescue puppy, or any animal for that matter, is confirmation of this truth. At our most basic and animalistic level, it really all boils down to this.
Three years ago on this day, and for months after, I wanted to die. I had just lost the man I’d been in love with for four years in a tragic accident. He was also my best friend. When I say I wanted to die, it’s strange because it makes it sound as if I was suicidal. But I was never suicidal. It’s hard to describe the feeling and might be one of those things you can’t understand unless you’ve been there, but at the time, my future looked so black, I couldn’t imagine life without him. Besides, I wanted so desperately to see him and was convinced he was on the other side. I only hoped to die, so that we could be together again. It was the last sort of logic that I had left at the time.
Now here I am, three years later, and my perspective is quite the contrary. It’s hard to believe that today marks three years. Three years of pain, longing, and questions but also of healing, growth and indescribable grace. I question whether we can fully comprehend the sweetness of life without first experiencing its bitterness.
Today, as I miss my best friend like always, I realize not only was it an incredibly sweet gift to do life with him, but the lessons I’ve learned since that loss remain invaluable. Here I share with you 5 things I learned from losing my best friend.
- There is nothing more important in life than your relationships. As Max Lucado so tactfully puts it, “When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want? Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame? Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car? Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement? Of course not. What will matter then will be people. If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?” We are called to love others. It is our mission. Our reason for being on Earth. And not just to love them halfheartedly either, when it’s convenient to us, for example. But to love them wholeheartedly, at all times, through all situations, no matter their actions or behaviors. This might seem like a daunting task but it’s this sort of love, relentless and all encompassing, that people most need to see. It is the kind that we need to be most intentional about giving. Develop relationships filled with love like this, and you will know what it means to live.
- The best things in life aren’t things. They can’t be touched, or even captured. To try is fleeting. They flutter around like butterflies, here one minute gone the next. An ever-elusive bunch. And when we grasp for them, we miss. But this is what we have hearts for. Our hearts get it. Our hearts know that the best things can’t be described with words. They must be felt. Our hearts know that the best things aren’t tangible…that these things aren’t meant to be captured or even understood; only appreciated.
- There are angels on earth. And they exist in your close friends and family. People are placed in your life for a reason. They’re strategically chosen and uniquely capable of holding you just how you need to be held at any given moment in time. We’re all just taking turns on this journey called life, so give love to others while you can. Before you know it, your time will come and you’ll need someone, too. It is then, that you’ll find your angels.
- Pain can be a good thing. The good thing about pain is that it breaks down the walls of your ego and forces you into the present – enhancing your awareness of and appreciation for all of the people in your life. When you experience deep suffering, you become comfortable with it. This allows you to empathize with others in ways you wouldn’t have been able to before. It causes you not to run from future sufferings, but to sit with them. Most importantly, it allows you to grow. The best lessons are often found when we are facing unanticipated change and loss. In those moments of vulnerability, longing, and desperation, we learn who we really are and what we are capable of. Pain is not a bad thing.
- Life goes on. You don’t think it will and you certainly can’t imagine it doing so, but it does. Whether you take part in it or not, life continues to go on all around you. Time waits for no one. The good news is, even if you’re deep in grief or simply feeling stuck, eventually you, too, will go on. There’s a hole inside of you from the loss and that hole never really seals back up. But that is the beautiful part. You learn to live with the gap, to embrace it. It becomes a part of you. It allows your light to shine through.
God puts chapters in your life. Finish each chapter strong. Finish strong by focusing only on the things in front of you and by not thinking of what lies ahead.
God will give you the strength to finish this day strong. And when tomorrow comes, He will give you the strength to finish it, as well. So focus on today, and be faithful in your chapter.
Don’t waste your white space. Just because you don’t think anything is going on in your life, doesn’t mean God’s not at work. He uses white space, the down time of our lives, to prepare us. It is standard practice in His method of preparation. Look at any of His chosen ones. Paul was chosen yet God took nearly two decades to prepare him.
YOU, TOO, ARE HIS CHOSEN ONE! So don’t underestimate the times in your life when it seems like you’re not moving forward. “The White Space” is God’s garden in His preparation for your blossoming. It is where He does His best work in preparing you for His calling on your life.
Remember, God calls you first to Himself and then only secondarily to a task. That means, that what God is doing IN you is just as important, if not more important, than what He is doing THROUGH you. So if He is taking longer than you expected to fulfill what He promised in your life, respond with faith. He always keeps His promises. And definitely, definitely, don’t waste your white space.