Isaac's Advent Series: Week 2 (The Longing)

Isaac's white head popped from the olive green couch, my headlights slipping through the window to gleam in his eyes. I parked the car and hurried through the cold to the carport door. I jingled my house key loose in one hand. Hanging from my other hand was a new pillow. I'd "won" it at a Cajun Christmas party. Decorated with a winter-dressed penguin, it matched my red couch, and Isaac, perfectly. Given Isaac's newfound love of sleeping with a pillow, I was sure this gift would bring us double blessing.

I walked through the door, but he wasn't standing in the kitchen to greet me. Thump, thump thump. I followed the familiar sound of his hopeful tail wag into the living room. He had not moved from what my headlights found in the window. He looked at me, then turned his gaze back to the dark front yard.

"Hey, bud, look what I got for you."

I put the pillow in front of his face. He sniffed a few spots with little movement. He licked the penguin's nose. Then, he sighed and turned his head away from me. Usually, when I bring something "new" into the house, Isaac assumes it is his, and he sniffs circles around it. Why would he act so differently towards the Christmas Penguin Pillow? I took the pillow to its new home on the den's red couch and went towards my bedroom.

In the middle of my floor was a purple glove--one half of the pair I wear on my walks with Isaac. I reached for the right-handed glove and examined it. No rips or tears. Just a slight smell of Isaac's not-as-bad-as-you'd-think-it'd-be breath. I had left the gloves on a low table of Isaac-friendly height, but the left hand was not there. I smiled.

Back in the living room, Isaac was curled into a furry white ball with his eyes open and his ears low. I sat down and scratched his ears. He lifted his snout towards me, revealing in the space between his paws a purple, left-hand glove. I didn't reach for it. I knew that it was unharmed.

When Isaac first came to live with me a year ago, if I had come home to separated gloves with the faint smell of dog on them, this scene would have played out very differently. I would have sternly called out, "Isaac, you do NOT play with my gloves." I would have taken the glove from him and thrown both gloves in the washing machine. In my first months as a pet owner, everything was about teaching Isaac who was in charge. It was not until the middle of his obedience school that the trainer got through to me that I had to learn to read/listen to Isaac's behavior. As I got to know Isaac better, and he got to know me, I began to see his behavior in a new light. Training was not just about me teaching him how to behave. Training also meant that I had to learn why he behaved certain ways.

What appeared to be "taking my stuff" was actually a sign of Isaac longing for me--or at least for the walks that came from me! I responded the way that I did because I understood his behavior. Understanding that behavior was only possible because I had taken the time to know him.

During the Advent season, we're reminded of a longing within us to be close to God. We long for his healing, comforting, nourishing presence. We long for God to become flesh and dwell among us. We long for the Christ child who fulfills all we need. We long for Emmanuel--God to be with us.

Sometimes we get so busy and self-absorbed that we forget how much God longs for us. We don't give God the time and space to heal, comfort, and nourish us. We neglect the mystery of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. We're too busy trying to fulfill all our own needs that we ignore the Christ child who wants to carry those needs with us. We want God to be with us on our terms: to do what we want, when we want it, in the way we want it.

We don't take the time to long for Him -- and listen to His longing us. This is a longing that we only understand through building a relationship with Him.

Would you join me in a simple but powerful exercise some time before Christmas? Set a timer for 3 minutes (or longer, if you wish). Find a quiet place to sit in silence, alone, and pray this simple prayer:

Emmanuel, I long for you.

If your mind wanders, and it probably will, return to the prayer. Slow down your breath. Perhaps you'll want to close your eyes. This may be uncomfortable for some of us, and that's okay if it is. Others of us may experience such peace that this becomes a regular practice.

What matters is that we take the time to express our longing for God.

We long for that which we love.

And God longs for us, whom He loves.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian & Paw-stor Isaac