Having visited nursing and rehab homes before, I knew what to expect. Often, hope is scarce as the hallways are frequently filled with the despondent aging, many of whom are being wheeled up and down the hallway just for a change of scenery. They have seen a great deal of pain and loss in their lives, and the monotony of later life takes its toll. So, any and all change of pace and scenery, including visitors, is quickly welcomed with great enthusiasm, being a bright spot in the day as it breaks up the routine, easing the pains of life and distracting them beyond the ills from which they suffer. However, what I didn’t expect was how much the residents would change when they got a visit from our dog, Finn.
Sixty pounds of off-white long soft fur and a love of everyone, he’s pure mutt with an enormous heart that often exceeds the size of his brain. With pleading brown eyes that beg for attention and a tail that never stops, he bounded into the home with great excitement, looking for the next person to meet. Anxiously, he’d happily trot over to them, leaning against their legs as he welcomed their loving advances. Astoundingly, faces not only lit up as people asked to meet him, calling him over to pet him and say hello, but their entire demeanor changed. People who were immobile and pain-riddled suddenly forgot themselves and called to him with open arms, as Finn gave every ounce of love he had. No matter who they were, their lives were instantly improved when Finn came to visit them. The transformation that took place because of his presence was astonishing.
There’s something pure about a dog’s love that is unlike human love. When dogs meet someone, they never judge, accepting people for who they are. Whether people were bed-ridden, wheelchair-bound, or with a walker, no matter the age, disability, or illness, Finn accepted them with his whole heart, and didn’t differentiate between any of them. His total lack of judgment allowed for him to see people beyond their human failings and see them only for the love for which they were capable. Additionally, a dog’s capacity for love is seemingly endless, as despite the number of people Finn met, or the number of times Finn met the same person, the well of love from which Finn’s love drew never dried up. And because of that endless, boundless pure love, people’s hearts were changed as he brought what sorely lacked from so many of their lives: hope.
Similarly, Christ’s love shares many of these characteristics. Endless and boundless, His pure love knows no judgement and can transform even the lowest. Ephesians 2.4-5 displays the life-changing purity of His love: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Like Finn, Christ’s love brings life and hope where there previously was none. Christ takes even the direst situations and completely changes them around with the addition of His pure love. For this reason, when God intervenes in our lives, we are never what we once were. Transformation and hope are immediate, as we are fundamentally different because of his selfless, non-judgmental love. Although we are humanly flawed, we can still be aware of the transformative nature that pure love can bring and work towards imitating it in the way we interact with others. What we can still hope and pray for is for God to work through us, using our words and actions to give hope and love where there was none beforehand. In that way, His love transforms us and others through its pure, nonjudgmental nature, altering our hearts and minds forever. Amen.