The Great Little Commission


“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy." - Hamlet (1.5.167-8)  Or, if I were going to paraphrase, based on my life:

“You know, it’s never what you think.” Or "Wow. Did NOT see that coming."

Eighteen months ago, I lost my canine running companion Joan. I was heartbroken. (I wrote about that here:  She Remains With Me) But Joan's story didn’t end when she slipped from this world to the next.

Because two months after her death, in the middle of a rainstorm, she sent two underfed strays to the door of the office where I work.  A young and bouncy Boxer and… a senior Lab. The Lab was older, gray around her muzzle and on the paws. They were both underfed, but the lab was more malnourished than the Boxer. They were a pair, a coworker told me. He'd seen them running loose through the neighborhood for a while.

Looking at their age disparity – and the Boxer’s energy level – it occurred to me that in order for them to stay together, either the Lab was really pushing herself, or the Boxer was slowing down from time to time so the Lab could catch up. Which was touching, either way.

“People tried to catch them,” the coworker remarked. “But they never could.”

They were ready to be caught today.

As I leaned down from my place at the office door to look closer at the two in front of me, the Lab looked up – soft brown eyes shining from her beat-up old body, and I felt it.

I felt the commission.

As I gazed into her eyes, I knew – in that way that you-know-it-makes-you-sound-crazy-but-you-can't-help-it-because-you-KNOW –

I knew that Joan had sent them to me.

As I leaned down, It all came over me in a flash. I knew I would look hard for the owners but not find them. I knew the dogs would not have microchips. And I knew that I would keep them.

I knew it even though my heart was still sore from the loss of Joan and I knew it even though a part of me cried out:  I SAID NO MORE DOGS I CAN’T BEAR IT.

I could feel Joan’s presence at my side. She wanted me to take them in and care for them.

And so I did it. I accepted the commission.

I would care for the old labby and do right by her, I told myself. The funny bouncy Boxer would be my reward.  Turns out, I got that part wrong.

Because as we fed Lilly the Lab and we loved Lilly the Lab, she loved us back – SO MUCH. She lay at my side in the study when I wrote. She slept by my bed at night. She accompanied my husband outside for his early morning coffee and slipped away from my bedside late at night to sit with my son while he watched Netflix and ate ranch-style beans.

Lilly the Lab loved us like all old, underfed strays love the ones who say yes, the ones who take them in.



When I took Lilly to the veterinarian the first time, to check for a microchip and have a good old-fashioned physical exam, the vet said Lilly had had “many” litters of puppies and a “rough life.” Later we found out she was also in chronic renal failure. But Lilly the Lab got better and better anyway. She got SO MUCH BETTER that she was able to accompany me on the greenbelt – running through puddles and sniffing trees -- and I could hardly keep up with her! A year flew by, and that year was so wonderful that I forgot all about the former rough life and the chronic renal failure. Lilly forgot all about it too.

So I was taken aback when the chronic renal failure took a sudden, nasty, fatal turn; and stunned to discover that my heart could break again over a love I had know for only a year.

And that's when I came to understand that the funny bouncy Boxer (she's adorbs, I love her) was not my reward for caring for Lilly –

Lilly was my reward for taking care of Lilly.

I loved that dog SO MUCH. She became a love and a joy in my life.

I’ve been thinking about the word “commission” these past few days (while also grief-eating large amounts of pie). The definition of commission is: an instruction, command, or duty given to a person or group of people.

When the dogs showed up on our office doorstep, I thought I was being given a commission to take care of Lilly – and I was – but it also ended up being…a gift to me.

And something has occurred to me...

The Christians believe that Jesus gave His followers a commission. They even call it “The Great Commission.” In the Great Commission,  Jesus instructs His followers to teach others what He had commanded them.

And what had He commanded them?

Love God. Love your neighbor.

Love God. Love your neighbor.

Love God. Love your neighbor.

Over and over He repeated it. THAT, in truth, is The Great Commission -- for all of us. Love God. Love your neighbor.

And maybe it’s just the pie talking – but it occurs to me that every little commission we say "yes" to in this world flows from The Great Commission. Love God. Love your neighbor.

The pets we care for... The children we teach... The friends we check in on... The seniors we assist...

Extending patience to the annoying... Forgiving the snarky and the unkind... Reaching out to the outliers... Turning around, retracing our steps and asking someone if they need help...

All these little things -- it’s us, saying yes to a commission. And now, because of Lilly,  I'm understanding that Jesus didn’t give that commission to His followers JUST so they would bring light and love to others. He gave them that commission because it would bring light and love TO THEM as well.

Guys. It was a present.

So if you've said yes to someone or something... or if you feel you are being asked to say yes to someone or something... let me tell you what Lilly taught me:

There is love and light and great joy in this. For YOU. Yes, there may also be struggle and pain and maybe even a heartbreak. But, ohmyfriend, make no mistake, LOVE WINS, and this commission is a gift.

For them. But also For YOU.

Say. Yes.