Kai-the-dog is 12 years old today, New Year’s Day. He is slowing down, rising off the carpet with a heaviness of years and on aching muscles. The same thing is happening to me. We are getting old together. Who new!?
A parishioner in my curacy in Charlottesville once said of my dog that “He is how God visits you.” And I think that sounded then and still now sounds right. Perhaps the church demands that God visits in a sip of bread and wine and who am I to disagree? It’s possible. I know the notion is very important to some. I know that wars have been fought and people have been burned alive in the notion’s defense. But I know that when Kai-the-dog wanders over to lick a tear from my cheek and place a paw spontaneously on my hand or my head, God seems to be inside there somewhere – a fury, black Trojan Horse of sorts. A black, soft, oily costume God has chosen briefly to wear.
I wish I could fully understand God. Who God is. What God is. Where God is.
The only thing of which I am sure as I age, is that there is an entity – vast, full of energy, full of and the source of love and of connection and of beauty. We in our culture have decided to call it God and have created all sorts of rituals to help us feel in attendance to it, but much as we seek to bow to a cross, or venerate a wafer of wheat, or genuflect to a stone table, I am not sure God is only there. I am not even sure that what we have decided God is, is all that God is. I believe God is too shy, too vulnerable to show its self to us; too reticent to have us name it and so, dominate it.
I saw God in the eyes of an elephant in Thailand, the President’s recent evil lift of a ban on importing elephant parts not withstanding. I saw God in a homeless person’s eyes, the ban on his using a church bathroom not withstanding. I saw God in Kai-the-dog’s eyes when I noticed him staring at me from across the room recently. Looking. Watching. Noticing. Loving from a short distance.
Terrible things will indeed happen to us. Diagnosis. Betrayal. Abandonment. Abuse. Scapegoating. Yes. They will happen. But as John O’Donohue says so beautifully, those who find themselves on the edge of the frontier of loneliness or abuse will always find beauty if they look for it. And seeing beauty will be enough, most days, to move from moment to back into movement. Just enough dynamos from what we call God, to seduce us back into a bit more life. When, as O’Donohue says “hope stutters” there seems always to be God watching, coaxing, dancing God’s dance of the seven veils.
Here God rests from God’s dance of the one brown blanket. But God never stops watching, knowing, whispering “Keep going. I am here. You are beautiful.”
And so lift high your chalice, your goblet, and your glass for a toast to Kai-the-dog on his 12th birthday, dozing on the carpet after a brief romp and before the next one. Is God in the chalice? They say so. Is God on the paten? They say so. Is God somehow present in Kai-the-dog. It seems so to me. I have seen God winking at me from inside that black dog’s black eyes, heavy though his lids seem these days, and mine. Heavy with hope for peace on earth.