Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I am unashamedly going to use this Lenten opportunity to depart from issues and topics – given the contemplative and potentially peaceful character of the season – in order to talk about Ruby.
Ruby is my little dog – a beautiful and ‘diverse’ combination of Yorkie, Chihuahua and a touch of Poodle. The poodle component contributes to a high level of canine intelligence. She is of uncertain origin and age, having been a rescue dog.
While obviously I am engaging in a fair amount of anthropomorphic projection (what’s wrong with that ?) I find my relationship with Ruby to be profoundly spiritual and, for me, comforting and reassuring as to the ultimate meaning of life, love and relatedness.
In fact, in the simplicity and directness of this mutual affection, I experience wordlessly the presence and love of God in creation. The key ingredient of this connection is its being totally unconditional. Granted this has to do with food, walks outside, safety and a lot of sleep – but it is so eloquent in its simplicity and immediacy. It is also ultimately forgiving – absent of any hint of resentment when mistakes and unintentional hurts occur.
Some time ago, until his death, I spent twelve years of my life with a horse. His name was ‘Upstate’ (sire Secretary of State, grandsire Secretariat).
Our relationship was one that brought home to me the deepest meaning of trust. This half ton of powerful animal could easily have killed me with a single swipe of his hoof.
Despite my sitting astride him, signalling to him with leg pressure, rein pulling and tapping with a whip, State never objected – and when I had occasional ‘involuntary dismounts’ he simply waited patiently for me to get back in the saddle.
Horses don’t merely endure our riding and training them because, as some say, they are too dumb to know better, they partner with us in a joyful expression of energy and shared movement. As Eric Liddell said: ‘ When I run I can feel God’s pleasure.’
On one very memorable occasion, after we had ridden together and I was watering State at the pond we caught each other’s gaze for a moment. In that eye contact there was a clear communication – ‘we are both,although of completely different species, creatures of the same God. ‘
My friends, in this season of quiet reflection and deeper inner contemplation, let us thank God that the living creatures with whom we share this earth and this existence, can give us such awareness of the beauty and love of our creation and of our Creator.