Jackson – Therapy for Dog and Human

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My wife and I attended Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue’s annual picnic on September 23rd. This year we went alone as our own Shetland Sheepdog, Chipper, passed away last spring. 

We have been grieving his loss ever since and this picnic was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with those we had met over the years as well as to get our Sheltie fix.

Jackson is a nine-year-old rescue Sheltie who, in the first seven years of his life, was kept confined and isolated in a barn with little to eat or drink. He was abused and even though being in a loving home for the past two years, he still bears the scars and fears of his former life. When he was first rescued he did not bark and now he is happy to join the other shelties with his new voice.

 

Jackson is devoted to his adoptive mother and follows her everywhere, but he is afraid of strangers. At the picnic, our families sat near one another. Jackson was skittish and wary of my overtures of friendship but, under the watchful eye of “Mom,” I was able to pet him and, eventually, lift him up onto my lap. 

Once there, he was happy and felt safe. Together, we experienced about an hour of mutual therapy.

Since his adoption, Jackson has been slowly healing from his abusive past and is becoming more comfortable around other dogs. However, he remains timid and fearful of people. His healing will be a lifelong process, which has been helped by the adoption of two more sheltie rescues to mentor him in his loving home. 

It was certainly a pleasure on my part to not only be able to extend love to this sweet sheltie, but to know that – as he was giving me therapy – I was also showing him that he could be loved by other people. (The world is not as dark and fearful as he thinks.)

Despite our time together, just a short time later, as we were departing, Jackson again shied away from me. His wounds run deep, as so often do the wounds in our own human hearts.

Many of the shelties at this picnic come from abused backgrounds. That is why they have been rescued and adopted into loving homes. Most are very friendly and approachable. A few, like Jackson, need more time and encouragement.

It occurred to me that people are like that, too. We all come with our own – very mixed – baggage. There is no one universal approach to healing. We must be alert to the nuances of each situation and story.

For those most wounded, like Jackson, patience, persistence, and love are required. Like some people, Jackson expects the worst from others, including those who may intend no harm and actually have pure love to share.

Jonah Goldberg notes that, almost uniquely among animals, dogs “can read human body language and expressions.” For wounded creatures (human and animal), suspicions and fears can paralyze us and dull our senses. (Our perceptions are not always reality.)

Darkness has a way of blinding us to truth, to love, and to the good that surrounds us. It can blind us to the wounds within other people. And it can blind us to the love that our heavenly Father wants to share with His children.

In our case, we have Jesus to share with others. Let us help heal the Jacksons of this world with the love of Jesus, one encounter at a time, moment by moment, until the Light fully dispels the darkness.

If you’ve experienced times when God has picked you up, placed you on His lap, and lavished His love on you, then share those experiences with others. You never know whose heart might be healed. (It might even be your own.)

 

[Jackson’s mom emailed me writing, “Thank you for 'seeing' Jackson as he is.” It made me think; do we see God’s creatures through His eyes or through the lens of our own prejudices, pain, and fear?]

 

Adoption is a Reflection of Jesus

November is National Adoption Month.

My wife and I have felt a calling towards adoption for some time and it finally came to fruition about a year and a half ago. We had two foster children, who are biological brother and sister placed in our home and this past summer we finalized their adoption. That means that at the moment we have four children (two biological: 1yr old & 6yrs old and two adopted: 9yrs old & 16yrs old) in our family.

This past year has been a roller coaster and if you would have caught me on a bad day, you might walk away from our interaction confident that you aren’t called to adopt. So why did we adopt? Why should anyone consider adoption? For me, it goes back to my own adoption.

I know that I am a sinner. Of all the things that scripture teaches me, the fact that I am a sinner is near the top of the list. Because of sin, I was hopelessly lost, separated from God with no ability on my own to get right with Him. I was outside of God’s family, an orphan with no father. The Bible describes this condition as being enslaved to sin. My condition meant that I desperately needed a redeemer, a father who would take me in and love me as his own.

That redeemer is Jesus Christ. Because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, my sins are forgiven. When I was forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ, the Bible says that I was adopted into his family. When I was in sin, I was separated, I was alone, I was an orphan. But in Christ, I am adopted into God’s eternal family.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father! (Romans 8:15)

Again, Paul says that God sent his son to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons… “So you are no longer a slave, but a son…” (Galatians 4:5,7)

In both of these passages Paul shows us that there are only two conditions — we are either slaves or we are adopted children. We either have the spirit of slavery and fear, or we have the spirit of adoption.

Our adoption is what brings us into God’s family. It is a spiritual reality, a spiritual change of condition that takes place when we are saved. But physical adoption is something that is desperately needed in our community and around our world. We need Christian men and women who are willing to model Christ’s love for us and give that love to children in need.

Why did my wife and I choose to adopt? I believe that adoption is central to the gospel. Christ adopts us when we are separated from him. I believe the church can show the love that God has for us by adopting children in need. When we show children that we are willing to be their earthly redeemer, they become open to the idea that they have a heavenly redeemer.

When we considered what Christ has done for us, we felt there was no clearer picture of the gospel than to adopt children who need a family. We chose to open our family, open our home, and open our hearts to these children. We chose to take them in and freely give them the gift of being a part of our family. We took the orphans and made them sons and daughters.

There are over 400,000 foster children in the United States. There are millions of orphans around the world who need loving families. I believe the church can be the leader in helping these children find their place in a home and family that will love and care for them. Since Christ died for my adoption, I feel called and compelled to show that love and do it for others.

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