Last week our family was having just another Wednesday. I was sitting at the kitchen table when our dog, Shelby, began to bark more than usual. She came bounding across the deck in a tear. Then, almost instantly she came running back the other direction followed by a skunk. With my heart pounding, and nose and eyes burning, I hosed her off and put her in the garage.
The skunk didn’t vacate the yard, but instead was joined by another. Animal control came and eventually took the skunks for rabies testing. Unfortunately, the last time Shelby was at the veterinarian she was sick and couldn’t get her booster shot and we didn’t get it done.
Following tests, it was determined that one of the skunks did in fact have rabies. We were than faced with the choice of putting her to sleep or subjecting her to six months of a no-contact quarantine. As you can see, Shelby was a long haired Pomeranian, lap dog. She was used to constant love and affection. It was clear that this quarantine would be torture for her and our family. We made the hard decision to let her go.
I have to admit that Shelby was intended to be Sheila’s dog. I had never had dog, nor was I really interested in having one. Nevertheless, a few months after we were married we got Shelby. She quickly became a part of our family and in the end acted more like my dog. She loved Sheila but for some reason, perhaps because I was the one who picked her up from her mother, she was attached to me.
I tell this story not to seek sympathy, which we have received a great deal of. Rather, I want to tell you what I have been reminded of by this experience. The “here today gone tomorrow aspect” of this situation has been a powerful reminder of how quickly life can change. The loss of our dog is actually small in the grand scheme of the world. Right now wars are raging, people are suffering from disasters and loved ones are dying from hideous diseases.
Scripture tells us “that no one knows the hour.” We don’t know the reality of God’s timing in our lives. Not long ago, a day was like any other day in Japan, and without warning lives were ended or changed forever. We sometimes fail to see how temporary this life is. I have been with many a family member who has deep regret following the death of a loved one for missed opportunities.
The loss of Shelby has reminded me that our time is not our own. We need to take every opportunity to live out our vocation and to display God’s love to the world. I remembered the Garth Brooks song, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” the other day. One refrain in the song expresses the reality of missed opportunity:
‘Cause I’ve lost loved ones in my life
Who never knew how much I loved them
Now I live with the regret
That my true feelings for them never were revealed
So I made a promise to myself
To say each day how much she means to me
And avoid that circumstance
Where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel
Today I hope that you will consider how your life is lived in respect to taking opportunities to express love, forgiveness and faithfulness. I pray that each of you might find a way to become agents of reconciliation and love. For we don’t know the hour or the day and thus need to live without regret or fear.