Perhaps you’ve heard of the “balm in Gilead that makes the wounded whole”? Apparently someone at Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario has a dog who does the same thing.
People who go there for a thirty-day silent retreat to pray the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises sometimes find their prayers empty and their hearts in desolation. When the director, who is leading them through the exercises, has no words left to offer, they ask the retreatant if they’d like to take the dog for a walk or even keep it with them for the night.
I can identify with both the director and the retreatant. I too am weak–powerless to change my prayers, myself, or the suffering of others. I need God by my side, like a faithful hound, to walk with me in this.
I feel a tug on the leash and recall a quote by Jean Vanier,
Our lives are a mystery of growth from weakness to weakness—baby to dying person, with sickness, fatigue, accidents, along the way.
I am comforted. I’m not supposed to be able to skip over weakness as if life were a game of hopscotch. And God knows that when I “go through the valley of Baca,” I can’t “make it a place of springs” (Psalm 84:6). God understands how frustrating that is.
Vanier goes on to say,
Some people are infuriated by weakness . . . but weakness can also open us to compassion and concern for the well-being of another.
I don’t like the angst I feel when I have no words to free others trapped in difficulty. All I can do is sigh like a hound and say again, “This sounds so hard.”
In my growth from weakness to weakness, sometimes I’m given the dog and sometimes I am the dog given to others.
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”).
–Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
Some Advent Love Mischief:
- Who has been a companion to you in your weakness?
- How has this opened you to compassion?
- To whom are you being given?