I’ve had a major increase in my depressive symptoms since the incident at church and the aftermath. This is the last day of school for my kids and this week has been crazy. Ben is out of town, so that makes it extra difficult. Next week I will have the kids all day every day which will challenge my ability to cope for sure. Still, I am stronger than the depression and each day I come back to my Savior for comfort and healing. His power is real.
As I’ve studied my Lord’s life and teachings, I’ve had questions come into my mind. He was around 30 when he began his ministry. What was he doing before that? I’ve heard that his father was a carpenter. It would make sense that he would have been one also. But everything about Him tells me that he had extensive experience healing, leading, and guiding living things. His insights were too keen, his metaphors too on point for him to have been working with dead wood and stone.
I suspect that, whether as a hobby or a career, Jesus Christ cared for animals, most likely a flock of sheep. He developed his skills as a leader and a nurturer for his sheep. He healed them, loved them, protected them, and then His father told him to go and do the same with the children of men. That makes sense to me. God sent us the animals to teach us how to love and care for one another.
I’ve looked at Pepper sometimes and thought, “She must see me as a God.” Compared to her, I am so powerful! She doesn’t understand how I can open a box in the kitchen, make cold air come out, and then present her with leftover steak. Her needs are simple and direct, and I’m able to meet them and she loves me dearly for that. People are more complicated. We learn to hide our needs, conceal our deficiencies, and make nurturing us very complicated.
Dogs are especially interesting in human culture. We created the domesticated dog for our own purposes, but like all things we create, it is fallen. We created a species, but we often do not take responsibility for their quality of life as we should. Ben told me stories about his mission in Brazil. He said that the streets of the cities are full of mangey curr dogs that carry various diseases and eat garbage. They are very dangerous and they smell terrible. The sight of them engenders the greatest feelings of revulsion. A healthy dog that is loved and cared for can be a source of great joy. The opposite is a disease ridden curr, the evidence of our neglect of creatures we have created and the devastating effects inspire loathing, fear, and sometimes guilt. We turn our faces away from such creatures. The more cruel and sadistic members of human society prey upon these animals. They capture them. They torture and maim them. These acts bare witness of the depravity of the fallen human condition.
I came across, quite by accident, a YouTube Channel of Animal Aid, a group based in India. Ben has been to India several times. It is, from what I have heard, an incredibly fascinating place. Like many developing countries in warm climates, they have serious problems with pest animals. Animal Aid is a charity that works specifically to rescue dogs, cows, cats, and other animals that become injured or diseased. They post the plight of these animals and the ways the organization works to help them on their YouTube channel.
My most tender hearted son watches these movies with me. Sometimes he turns away from the more grotesque injuries. I tell him, “It’s okay. The injuries are only horrifying if you don’t think they can be healed.” We watch limbs be amputated, maggots be pulled out of wounds, terrible cases of mange and starvation, and we wait on the resolution. We know that Animal Aid and their compassionate efforts will give hope to these hopeless and pitiful creatures. By the end of the videos, we are laughing and celebrating the recovery of these precious animals who have been given names and a new life. Wesley announced, “I want to OWN that company!” It isn’t surprising to me that this beautiful child wants to dedicate his career to helping suffering creatures. I only hope that I can nurture that desire in him. If like my Savior, Wesley becomes a healer, I would not be more proud.
I can’t help but see the serendipity that brought these videos into my life. They symbolize to my mind with great power, the transformative, restorative power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. He does not turn away from our disease ridden, maimed, fallen reality. He approaches us in Love, knowing that no matter how grotesque our injuries, that his Grace is enough. He can heal it. If we allow his treatment, we can at last be the creations we were designed to be, happy, loving, giving, and able to receive of love. The transformations of people who turn their lives over to the Savior can be as dramatic as the videos of these animals.
I think of Mange, that scourge of the street dog, of the creeping hardening of my heart against others; the grudges I am tempted to keep, the cynicism that deadens my spiritual and emotional power. The scaly scabs of the mange warn others to stay away, that I am in pain, and I don’t want to be touched. I choose to suffer alone and avoid the pain of contact with others.
The Savior puts his lotion on me. He softens the scales of my protective armor, reveals my vulnerability, and gently gets me used to feeling loving contact with others and my fear, loneliness, and pain are replaced with love and joy.
The videos of the animals encased in tar are wonderful metaphors for those who suffer from addiction. Trapped by its sticky power, their free will is crippled. Without help they will surely die from it’s terrible pull. It takes patience and hard work to remove the stains of addiction from its victims. It takes an understanding of the substance that binds and the methods best incorporated for success.
The videos of injured animals are perhaps the most heart breaking. Sometimes the injury is not so severe, but neglected it becomes infested with maggots and bacteria which feed on the flesh and necrotize the tissue. These injuries go on to poison the animal’s life making it smell bad and ruining what otherwise would be a gentle and pleasant temperament. This causes isolation in addition to pain and misery. This is a metaphor for the victims of abuse. Many abuse victims receive unhelpful advice about the consequences of the abuse. They are told that they must ignore the underlying injury and focus on getting over it. Rather than deferring to those who truly understand abuse injuries and the healing process, they often want to focus on fixing the outward signs of the abuse. True healing from abuse requires cleaning and sterilizing the wound which is painful and can make things worse before they get better. Often the victim is left with scars that will never go away, but happiness and peace are possible after traumatic abuse injuries. The Master leads those who suffer from these kinds of injuries to their healing path if they will put their trust in Him. He has done this for me.
I think of the Savior and how he approached people that others turned away from. He listened to them. He loved them. He healed them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I think of how I drive past the prison in Mansfield. I’m afraid. I turn away from those people. Strip clubs are the same. The homeless are the same. My Master was not afraid of sin or its victims. He was the Master of sin. His perfect love and penetrating perception gave him the ability to heal even the worst of sinners. He could and would reach out to those whose physical, emotional, and spiritual injuries were severe. He healed them. I take his name upon me every week as I partake of the sacrament. He is willing to give his love and insights to me today, that I might be his hands in healing those around me who suffer. I can be like Him. I can refuse to turn away. I can tune in to His healing grace and be an instrument in his hands to help his lost sheep.
I take heart in people like those at Animal Aid. They are not wealthy. They likely do not have much political power. Even their medical methods and facilities are not world-class. Far from it! They do what they can with what they have. The cynical would say that their efforts make little difference to the plight of street animals; that systemic processes like sterilization and euthanization are more effective at relieving animal suffering. (Animal Aid does do spaying and neutering). I find that their work means so much more than anything that could be measured or put in a law. They show us the way to push away our revulsion at pain and suffering, to confront the causes of the pain, and to give creatures a second chance at life. Their redemption stories give me faith and courage. I’m even going to donate some of my birthday money to them. I don’t have much, but I know that my Lord can magnify my efforts to bless the lives of those who lift and inspire me. Someday, maybe I will be able to travel to Rajasthan and meet these heroes and tell them how much they have inspired me and my boys to show more compassion.
As I continuously come unto my Savior, I have doubts about myself. My inner voice says, “Your blog is all wrong. Your Facebook is all wrong. Your parenting is all wrong. You’re all wrong!” I say to Him, “Show me my sin, that I may repent.” Its hard. I feel a tinge of doubt. What if he tells me I’m all wrong? His peace comes over me. “Fear not and be of good courage, for you shall carry my words to many. My sheep hear my voice. I will make of you my instrument. Your weaknesses are swallowed up in me, for I am Mighty to Save.”
I am grateful to my Savior for believing in me and my voice, even though I know I have so many flaws. He calls upon the weak and simple of this world to testify of Him and his matchless power. I raise my voice in praise to Him. He is my Redeemer! He is the balm that I rely on in my time of trial. I love him. I testify of Him. He is Mighty to Save!