Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Cosmo, 03/01/21, photo by Tobias Mayer
And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers? / I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
— Numbers 11:11-12/14
At the beginning of 2021 a small dog came to live with us. It was not my choice to adopt this dog, rather the wish of my wife and children. I assumed, reluctantly it must be said, the burden of dog-ownership. For the most part the situation is tolerable, even enjoyable, but there are times it is not. There are times when the dog, a puppy, just eight weeks old when he arrived, makes a mess of the kitchen, stinks it up. I am generally the one who cleans up, as it happens at night and I am the first to rise. Every day I cut up and serve him raw meat, a task which as a vegan I had expected to be free of in my life. Tripe is especially good for him, and especially disgusting to me. Cosmo, for that is his name, is in training, and taking him out for walks is a drag—literally. He's tiny, but strong, and very, very persistent. I do not enjoy walking with him, feeling none of the human/dog bond people talk about, man's best friend and all that. Sometimes, after cleaning up yet another mess I complain to my wife, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? or words to that effect. Poor me.
And poor Moses. The man is sorely tried by the persistent sulky, whining behaviour of the Israelites. He didn't ask for this responsibility, why must he be the one to shoulder the burden? It is easy to understand his resentment at this point, after yet another complaint—and far from the last one. Moses has a lot to put up with. And yet when it comes to it later in the narrative that God threatens to wipe out the whole nation it is Moses who speaks up to protect them, and calm the wrath of God.1 I find too that when my wife or children get cross with Cosmo that I am the one to stand up and speak in his favour.
We don't always choose our responsibilities, but once we recognise that they are our responsibilities the most gracious, God-loving action we can take is to step into them with as much grace as we can muster. With Cosmo I do my best, sustained by two lines of scripture:
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.2
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.3
Over time I am growing to love this little dog, God's creature, the least of these. Our burdens can sometimes be our anchors, holding us safe in uncertain waters, providing stability in times of turmoil, forging bonds with solid ground.
Coda, 2022: Our family's relationship with Cosmo altered after nine months, for practical reasons more than any other. We re-homed our now very well trained, and growing dog with a close friend of my sister, a recent widow. From all reports both woman and dog are doing well, and forging a strong and loving relationship. Occasionally we'll receive pictures. I grew to care for Cosmo, but in truth never to love him. I sense that today he has the love denied him in his younger months. Letting Cosmo go was the kindest thing our family did for him.
1 Numbers, chapter 14
2 Proverbs 14:31 (NIV)
3 Matthew 25:40 (NIV)