I knew a pet owner who was very attached to her dog. When her dog died, she was devastated. In the past, I have heard platitudes shared with grieving pet owners by well-meaning Christians: "You will see Rover in heaven" is a favorite. Many pet owners would seem to say something like: humans are saved by grace alone and faith alone, and Rover is saved simply for being a dog. When her dog died, I didn't have to go there, per se. I didn't even have to answer questions like: "Will I see Rover in Heaven?" I just had to be there and the ministry of presence was all that was needed.
Then she shared her paraphrase of a verse that I found very insightful: "God knows when a sparrow falls, and he knew my dog too." I have to say, God's omniscience was all the assurance that she needed. She knew her dog was known by God; her dog was important, every bit as important as a sparrow. And that gave her all the assurance that she needed to deal with her grieving.
We might dismiss grieving for a pet as trivial—until we come face to face with the elderly woman who has few if any companions except her cat or dog. The loss is real, painful, and in need of pastoral attention. Yet, in my attempt to minister to this woman at the time of her loss, her wisdom on the nature of God ministered to me.
Matthew 10:24-39 (NRSV)
24 "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;
25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.
27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted.
31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;
33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one's foes will be members of one's own household.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."
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