By William Reilly
We found the little puppy in a debris pile behind an abandoned house. She lay trembling with her head jammed through a piece of plywood. We later found out she thought that if her head was hidden no one could see her. When we finally got her out and into our house she wedged herself under our sink for eight hours.
We could not even imagine the pain and abuse this poor puppy must have experienced in her few short months of life to leave her in such a state of fear and defeat. My wife, Cecelia, decided to name her Moxie because, “Maybe if we say it to her every day she’ll get some.”
Originally, Moxie’s name was Princess. She was supposed to be our neighbor’s dog, but when they realized all she wanted to do was hide, they abandoned her.
Part of me related to our neighbors. Why would anyone want something that disliked them so much? Over the next few days, I could not help but become frustrated with the dog. We were trying to help, and she just did not get it! We could give her all the food, protection and love any puppy would want, but she would not have anything do to with us.
“If she would only come out from under the couch,” I thought, “maybe she wouldn’t starve.”
My wife didn’t get it. What I saw as annoying, she looked upon with love. The things that annoyed me broke her heart. She sat for hours hoping the dog would simply look at her. She never gave up hope that Moxie would begin to live into her name. For weeks she spent every night researching and trying different techniques to begin building trust with Moxie. She sang to her, talked to her, sat with her and absolutely loved her.
Eventually, slowly, Moxie stopped shaking.
After a few weeks, Moxie began sitting by our bed at night. She stopped running away whenever we entered the room.
The first time she wagged her tail, Cecelia cried. The first time she licked my hand, Cecelia cried. The first time she rested her head on our legs, Cecelia really cried.
Every day there were new reasons to cry tears of joy. Ever so slightly Moxie began to accept the love that Cecelia so willingly gave her. Now, several months later, Moxie plays more than cowers. She is a happy, energetic and loving puppy that does not mind being in the same room as people. Through the unconditional love and care of Cecelia, Moxie can live the life of a puppy!
The love Cecelia felt for Moxie reminds me of the love God feels for us. When we are broken, abused, hiding in life’s debris piles hoping not to be seen, God takes us in. We run and hide and cower, but God continues to look upon us with love, never becoming frustrated with our stubbornness or fear. The same God that saw Hagar, heard the cry of the Israelites in Egypt, loved the world so much to send God’s only Son, yes, that God sees us with all our pain and baggage and loves us with compassion and grace.
Day by day, year by year, God sits and waits for us to look up. Patiently, God waits for us to come out of our hiding places. God cries tears of joy every time we take a tiny step in overcoming our brokenness. Through God’s unending love, God helps us overcome our hurts and begin living joy filled lives. God never gets frustrated. God never abandons us. God only loves.
This truth can provide incredible encouragement, but also incredible responsibility. If we claim the title “Christian,” we cannot simply enjoy God’s gift of love, but must extend it to others. As the body of Christ, it is our duty to demonstrate this same unconditional love God gives us. When we encounter someone that has been broken and defeated, we cannot dismiss them by saying, “They do not want our love anyway.” We cannot look the other way, hoping someone else will honor their worth. We must help people find their Moxie, not give them another reason to cower in a corner. We must care. We must love.
William Reilly is a CBF Vestal Scholar pursuing his M.Div. at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. He currently serves as a pastoral resident at Edgewood Church in Atlanta, and plans to continue pastoral ministry in a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship congregation after graduation.