Photo: Abby (left) and Jackson (right)
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” Josh Billings
In the last post, I introduced you to my dog Jackson, a most fearful and skittish canine. Remember that Jackson and his companion, Abby, were both acquired from the local shelter, the source for all my canine companions. Both dogs were skin and bones when I brought them home, and both had been mistreated and likely were beaten. Abby recovered her ability to respond normally after about six months, while Jackson has remained fearful and jumpy.
Chalk some of this up to his pedigree, dubious as it seems to be, since he is part Dalmatian. The rest of his jumpiness seems to be related to a traumatic history that apparently involved brooms and other weapons. Every time I pick up a broom, a mop, or a snow shovel (I live in the frozen wasteland of NW Minnesota), his tendency is to run away and hide in the closet. I have never harmed him with any objects, but twice he has bumped into tools and knocked them over, which ramps up his fear for months afterward.
I would characterize Jackson as a dog whose love language is “touch,” but that is probably not a strong enough descriptor. His love language is more like “press.” If I stop to pet or scratch him, he is not satisfied until he is pressing in or leaning against me. If he lays on the floor at my feet, it must be on my feet. If I lay next to him on the floor, he must either stretch out his entire length in contact with me, or he must press against me with his paws. Not just soft pressure but hard, uninterrupted pressing with two or more paws. When I work at my desk, he likes to lay across my feet under the desk.
I am certain that there is some strong form of doggie affection in this, but these behaviors are more his source of security, comfort, and connection. They are his grounding. Over the two-plus years we have been a team, I believe Jackson has come to grasp the fact that I will not hurt him or forsake him. I have become the source of comfort and security for this very fearful, traumatized pound-rescue dog. It seems that Jackson demonstrates his trust in me by always staying close to me, and by pressing into me many times each day.
This is a great illustration of the relationship we can have with our God, for like Jackson, so much of how we live and move in the world is based upon fear. We react to our environment in ways informed by our traumatic experiences, our losses, our wounds and our betrayals. For most people, the reactions will be to shell up, to hole up, to shut up, or to give up. How great it would be if we could respond to our God as Jackson responds to me, by drawing near and pressing into our only reliable source of comfort and security. When Jackson is fearful or insecure, he seeks me out and presses his head, his heart, or his paws firmly into me. No matter how he is feeling he is always underfoot, staying in my shadow as much as possible. He is no longer afraid of me (if I am not holding a broom) because he is secure in the love I have for him.
As John the Apostle wrote in I John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” When we love our God and can relax and rest in His love for us, we can live without fear. We can live without having to shell up, to hole up, to shut up, or to give up. We can know the comfort and security of the love and nearness of our God and can press into Him and “shadow” Him all the time.
Jackson did not always have this freedom to press into me. Many are the times I had to crawl into the closet to coax him out of his hiding place where he had “holed up.” Over time, he began to leave the closet without coaxing, with only an invitation or even just mentioning of his name. And when he comes out, he comes to me to press into my leg or to sit at my feet and await a hug.
It pleases our God when we shadow Him in our daily living. It pleases Him when we come out of our hiding to press into Him, and when we press into Him often during the day. It will be a great source of strength, comfort, and security to us when we do these.