No, I am not late on my history. My reference is not to Charles H. Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers. I am referring to my dog.
Almost sixteen years ago one of Kimberly’s friends stopped by peddling a couple of puppies. We took them both. I named them after preachers. What is a Baptist preacher to do? Brooks, after Philip Brooks, and Spurgeon, after C.H. Spurgeon. You should have heard the grand boys learning that name.
I am trying to grapple with the event. If you must know, I cried like a baby. Here I am going to try to work it out not for the sake of finding meaning, but after thinking about it all day yesterday there is a bit of an analogy, or something of a metaphor for my own experience.
How Did It Happen?
Really it occurred in the normal course of the day. For three and a half years I have backed my Jeep into the garage. Our garage accepts two cars but in order to get out of the driver’s side, I have to back in. Surgeon has watched me do this with the Jeep for almost three years.
On this occasion his exuberance to greet me put him perilously close to the rear of the vehicle. In fact, I could not see him as it was dark. I wonder how he did not see me.
Over the past year we have noticed that Spurgeon either did not see well or hear well, maybe both. It could be he heard the Jeep but did not see it. By the time he realized how close he was, he could not escape. He did not escape.
I still see him lying in the driveway in front of me. Lifeless. Not moving.
Spurgeon Was Just a Dog?
Some people are cat people. We are dog people. Surgeon lived with us for half our married lives. He was around for more than half of the girls lives and all of the grand boys lives. Were he just a puppy, like Brooks when he died, maybe we could say at that point, “Spurgeon was just a dog.”
No. Spurgeon was my equalizer. Living with three women, a fellow needed another vote. Surgeon counted for two. That way when we had something to discuss, I could call in his vote and it would at least be a tie.
Just a dog? I think not. He was my buddy. The girls often accused him of being the favorite. If I worked in the yard he was not far away. If we sat on the porch he sat just in front of us. If he saw the cows grazing next door he barked to let them know they were too close to his turf.
He had a bed on a chair in our bedroom. In the den he had a pillow on the love seat. Max recently noticed, “Spurgeon has two beds.”
When we would go on vacation and leave him with one of the kids, he would barely eat. He moped. After the grand boys were born he did a little better. He might mope only for a day or two.
He hated thunderstorms. Not always. But, over the last few years when it began to thunder in the middle of the night I would wake up with him standing nearly on top of me. He needed someone to assure him all would be well. So, in a move reminiscent of the girls when they were little, we made room for him on the bed. He was always appreciative.
A recent study asserts that dogs actually love. For some reason Christians fear animals having feelings, actually expressing what we would call love, for it jeopardizes the “image of God” in us. The distinction lessens our value. Except, reading the Creation Story in Genesis displays an interconnection, an interdependence, that is often overlooked.
Why Jesus used the analogy of sheep to describe people. We still hear Jesus referred to as the Good Shepherd, his own self-designation. As such, it characterizes we sheep.
If it is all the same to you, I think I will be less worried about how it is that dogs love and rest in the reality that Spurgeon loved us.
How Is This a Metaphor?
There won’t be a Spurgeon #2. We may indeed have another dog some day. But, we will not name him Spurgeon. In fact, he will not be named after a Baptist preacher. Maybe we will choose something that is more open to the future, to possibility than setting sights on some era in the past as something for which to aim.
You see, no one would accuse me of preaching like Spurgeon. And, no one would suggest I pastor like Brother Justice, my pastor growing up. We are not to be the best impersonation of our heroes, mentors, or idols. No, that would be the sure thing that would adulterate the “image of God” in us.
So, metaphorically, Spurgeon died for me some time ago. Not my four-legged friend, but the one that was lifted up as the Prince of Preachers. Why what would people think if they spotted me with a cigar and Scotch? It would not satisfy them were I to say, “It was good enough for Spurgeon!”
If you like, you may re-read this little eulogy for my four legged friend. If you choose to, do so carefully and you just may unearth the embedded metaphor for what has led me to take up a position on the edge of the inside. If you catch it, then you know why Spurgeon died years ago . . . for me.
However, I am regretful that my little four legged friend left just now . . .