On Sunday, we’ll say goodbye to Sophiegooddoggy. We’ll walk in the yard, give her treats, and snuggle together. We’ll take some last pictures and wipe away tears, and then we’ll take her to the house we cried about leaving in August and entrust her to friends who’ll make it her home again.
Back in 2010, freshly into that house and full of plans and dreams for making it our forever home, we welcomed Sophie into our family. Her owner – a coworker of Tracy’s – had to move and couldn’t keep her, so she’d sought a good home for her friend. Sophie took immediately to us and to our house, walking around off-leash the second day we had her and never trying to run off. She loved walking around the yard and checking its smells, but her favorite pastime was laying her head on our laps while letting us share her couch. Sophie was a great playmate and comforter, especially for Billy. It’s comforting to know that she’ll be in a familiar place with a family who’ll love her as much as we have.
When Sophie joined our family, we had been without a dog for about ten months, ever since our St. Bernard, Maggie, had died of cancer. At that time, I’d written a note on Facebook about that; when we’d gotten Maggie in 2003, I’d written a newspaper column about life in the country requiring dogs and old tractors. We were building a house then and bought a 1949 John Deere Model B (our semi-reliable snowplow) the same day that we picked up our pooch. Life was going just the way I imagined it should. It was comfortable and predictable, familiar and planned.
Then, God took Tracy and me to Senegal for a short-term medical mission, changed my heart in a great many ways, and began the long, sometimes painful process of preparing us (especially me) to live for His plans instead of ours. Three years later, we’d left that house; partly due to my career change, partly because life wasn’t perfectly aligned with our plans, partly to be ready should God call us to full-time missionary work. We waited (sometimes patiently) as He kept answering our prayers, “Not yet.” We kept asking for that life and yet developing our own here, trying to walk two paths at once, expecting both to work out. Expecting to live for God while holding the reins ourselves. Telling God that we had it all figured out more often than listening for His perfectly good and wise direction. We kept expecting God’s timing, plans and methods to look a lot more like ours. We mourned Maggie and got Sophie, buying that other house in the country in 2010 when it seemed we wouldn’t be getting that call anytime soon.
“Soon” is so relative, so surprising. “Soon” and “too soon” have come many of the hardest moments of letting go of one life that we might embrace another.
Soon, too soon, it’ll be Sunday. GoodgirlSophie – a truly incredible dog, greatly loving and greatly loved, wonderfully patient and gentle, with eyes full of comfort – will pass out of our family, and at that moment of grief and pain, we (especially Billy) will have lost our most tangible and consistent example of the love God has for us. Tears and the pain of letting go – of our will, of our plans, of our comforts, of presence with our loved ones – will overwhelm us, just as they have repeatedly throughout this process.
In that moment, though, whether we feel it or not, Christ will be there with us and for us, will still be the source and completion and perfection of Love itself.
And on our last soon, we will be in His presence, rejoicing with others for whom the work to which God is calling us will have been a part of His calling them, too, part of His bringing us all home to a joy we could never create or plan and that we’ll never have to let go.
Sunday will be hard for us, especially for the kids; please keep us in your prayers.