I never thought a little Yorkshire terrier puppy named Baker could bring me a spiritual gift. Granted, he’s the most adorable dog I’ve ever seen, especially when he’s wearing his red, fur-lined coat with Velcro tummy strap and two elastic drawstrings personalizing his fit at the hip.
But . . .
He’s a d-o-g.
Nevertheless, this d-o-g caused an epiphany . . .
Last Saturday, Baker had his half-birthday, turning six months old on December 5. I fully expected he’d be at least half house-broken by now, which he is. He no longer pees in the house. He just poops in the house.
So, since we’re having our first company of the Christmas season on Saturday night, which just happens to be our new pastor, his wife and their seven children (unless they read this), I decided it might be a good idea to spot-clean the living/dining room rug. Our off-white carpet has developed a polka dot pattern in just under four months.
I buy a new contraption at PetSmart. The instructions on this Bissell Carpet Cleaner, specifically made for pet pee and poop, tells me to pre-treat the polka dot spots.
I can follow directions.
I spray each and every polka dot with Nature’s Remedy urine stain and odor eliminating concoction. Concerned the stains might magically disappear and I won’t be able to find and steam each pee polka dot, I mark every spot with a green Post-It note—a PEE POST, if you will.
So, after pre-treating and pee-posting all the polka dots, I place the dining table chairs across each room entrance to keep the little Yorkie and his older sister Rose, the yellow lab, out of the room. I figure the humans will understand, without explanation, exactly why there are green Post-It notes all over the living room/dining room combination. And as if the Post-It notes aren’t enough, there are THREE chairs blocking BOTH entrances. HELLO!
So, while making dinner last night, Nick—our 17 year-old—comes into the kitchen and finds me stirring soup on the stove.
“Dad just picked up most of the Post-It notes.”
He tells me calmly and then, I swear, he disappears to find cover from the coming storm. He is nowhere to be seen when I scream . . .
I leave my wooden spoon in the pot and I stomp my slippered feet from stove to living room where I see my dearly beloved kneeling, picking up my pee posts. My mouth opens . . .
“Honey,” I say sweetly, “Those Post-It notes are marking pre-treated pee spots.” I remain admirably calm, if I do say so myself.
“Oh. I thought one of the dogs ripped up some paper or something.”
Oh, forgive me, Lord—and Husband—and everyone else in the world about to read what ran across the screen of my mind at that moment, like a subtitled foreign language film . . .
Really?! Like when’s the last time you witnessed a dog chewing up paper and leaving it ALL OVER THE LIVING ROOM/DINING ROOM COMBINATION in perfectly square pieces?
Obviously, what I thought was obvious, was not quite obvious enough.
So I say, calmly and sweetly . . .
“That’s OK, honey. I was just marking all the urine spots with Post-It notes so I could steam clean them tomorrow.”
Not waiting for a reply, I turn and tip-toe back to the kitchen to stir my steaming soup, Julia Childs-like, sans (that’s French for “without”) apron.
Fast forward to yesterday . . .
I’m down on my knees, steam-cleaning our polka-dotted, pre-treated carpet when suddenly, the epiphany . . .
Here I am, down on my knees, cleaning up after the d-o-g which I, out of the goodness of my heart (!), brought into our home, promising to have and hold until death do us part, promising to love and cherish and all that other marriage ceremony stuff that applies to dogs as well as spouses. I hadn’t considered the possibility of him peeing on my rug.
But . . .
When I look into his eyes . . .
When I see his precious face . . .
When he places his warm body close to mine on the bed . . .
I can feel this tiny beating, this incessant pleading . . .
Please love me. You’re all I have!
How can one not LOVE?!
He knows not what he does!
(Well, maybe he does, sort of. But at least I know he’s not really trying to piss me off, in the angry sense of the phrase. Know what I mean?)
So, I spray. And I scrub. And the Bissell contraption sucks it up.
Every Post-It marked spot.
Every yellow stain.
But suddenly, the funny turns poignant . . .
There on my knees, I am struck with the realization that Jesus stooped to clean my filthy (John 13:5).
Every single spot.
I am struck with my objections and refusals and “I’ll do it myself, thank you very much”, just like Peter . . .
“You shall never wash my feet.”
But there I am, on my knees, cleaning another’s pee.
I can’t help but ask myself honestly, after all my attempts at scrubbing me . . .
What stain remains on me—in me—haunting me, taunting me? After all my scrubbing—after all my efforts—why do I still smell—why am I still stained?
Why do I keep trying to touch-up, to spot-clean? Why do I cover myself in Post-It fig leaves, hoping no one notices but me, hoping I can forget and go on?
I hear Jesus say to my soul as he did to Peter’s face . . .
“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:8)
I can’t clean the stains of my polka-dotted past?
But he can.
From Christmas to Cross, he came to clean.
While yet sinners (Romans 5:8) . . .
Stained as I am, I am not disdained. Not by him. Do other opinions matter?
Because down there, on my knees, cleaning a pup’s pee, I saw me. I saw him seeing me—us.
And I saw his hands and felt his heart—this Jesus of Nazareth—this Son of God—this Savior of the world—this lover of me and you, stained.
I saw all our inner spottedness where others have eliminated their wretchedness. I saw all the times we have lifted ourselves over another, wasting ourselves—our opportunities for holy connection, all because of pride. I saw ourselves rubbed raw, trying to scrub clean with good works, growing tired.
Down there, on my knees, I saw . . .
The PEACE offering.
What kind of love is this?
What kind of a love bows so low to clean and make peace?
Only the One who washes all our peace-stealing stains . . .
One spot at a time.