By Grace, We are God’s Coworkers

Consider those Christmas catalog puppies and let God’s transforming grace work in you too.

By Jim Tonkowich Published on July 29, 2017

It’s nearly August and so it won’t be long before Christmas catalogs begin arriving. Beware! Beware especially of L. L. Bean and Orvis catalogs featuring cute puppies with big red bows around their necks. Such photos bring on some sort of insanity and — Bam! — there you are with a Christmas puppy.

Or at least that’s what happened to us.

Christmas Puppy

Maggie came home from the shelter with us just before last Christmas. Three ten-week-old puppies were found on the side of the road on a frigid Wyoming day in December. The next day they found Maggie.

People keep commenting on how beautiful she is and then go on to ask her breed. It’s complicated. Probably she’s Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, with some Cow Dog or Rottweiler thrown into the mix with a pinch of Labrador Retriever (webbed feet). She’s nearly full-grown and is quite strong while retaining a puppy brain. They say this is the age when puppies go back to shelters.

For God, of course, all creation — present company included, dear reader — is superfluous.

At times, that route is tempting, but it won’t happen. While she’s often referred to as our FFLN — Furry Four-Legged Nuisance — she adds a certain something je ne sais quoi, literally “I don’t know what.”

‘Superfluous’ Maggie

Maggie is almost always there. And when she’s not, it means she may be getting herself into trouble and we better need go looking for her since. Trips, meals, meetings, dates all need to conform to the needs of our fuzzy ever-present friend and her needs for food, water, restroom breaks, entertainment, rest, and exercise.

It’s like being in child-rearing mode again with one huge exception. Dogs, unlike children, are superfluous. If you happen to be raising cattle or sheep, you need a dog. If you hunt game birds or ducks, you need a dog. If you are blind or have other special needs, you need a dog.

And while I may take up bird hunting again, for the most part, Dottie and I are not part of any group that requires canine assistance. Maggie is, in a word, superfluous.

For God, of course, all creation — present company included, dear reader — is superfluous. He is complete and content in Himself — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Nothing more was needed.

And yet, out of the overflow of the love within the Godhead, God created the superfluous universe populated by superfluous angels and humans. He needed none of it; He loves all of it.

And perhaps that’s why we need Maggie.

Oh, someone will say, but dogs give so much love. I suppose up to a point. But Maggie is a herding dog, not a hairy lap ornament. She can be affectionate — usually early in the morning when she’s still waking up or in the evening when she’s exhausted. In between, there’s walking, running, barking, nipping, and grabbing clothes or hands in a misguided attempt to play. And then there is her endless need to be disciplined.

And besides, Maggie’s “love” is not intelligent love. It’s not rational love except perhaps in the sense that she knows we’re her meal ticket. Attempts to anthropomorphize animals and their emotions never ends well.

Out of the overflow of the love within the Godhead, God created the superfluous universe populated by superfluous angels and humans. He needed none of it; He loves all of it.

God’s Coworkers

While his topic is gardening rather than pets, theologian Vigen Guroian sheds some wisdom on our superfluous companion. In his book Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening, he writes, “We ought not to draw a line that neatly marks off nature from humankind. This is a modern heresy that we have inherited from the Enlightenment.” We are part of nature and share in the curse God pronounced against nature (Genesis 1:17-18).

More than that, however, as Christians, we are God’s coworkers in undoing that curse. The broken world of nature “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God… because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:19, 21).

Guroian goes on, “God has given human beings the sacred responsibility of mediating God’s grace and by offering blessings to lift the ancient curse of Adam and expel the demons from every living thing and from the earth and its waters and from the air.” Then he adds, “No human science or technology can accomplish this, although we are constantly tempted to think so.”

Instead each of us receives the sacred responsibility of mediating God’s grace and lifting the curse by the seemingly superfluous activities of gardening and what used to be called “husbandry.” When we begin caring for a plot of land or an animal, we partner with God in His work of making the world right again.

And we find that it in that partnering, God also accomplishes His work of making us right again as well.

So I take back what I said at the beginning. Consider those Christmas catalog puppies and let God’s transforming grace work in you too.

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