Training a Divine Pet

Job 41
1 “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook
or press down his tongue with a cord?
2 Can you put a rope in his nose
or pierce his jaw with a hook?

5 Will you play with him as with a bird,
or will you put him on a leash for your girls?

I can’t imagine not having pets. I have had at least one pet most of my life (with a short gap in the first few years of marriage). Why is it that we love our pets? What is about them that give us so much joy?

To answer that, we also have to answer what it is about our pets that drive us nuts and make us want to take them to the humane society (or maybe literally take them).

To understand my love of pets from this backdoor angle, let me introduce you to Queso.

My goodness this was a great dog. We got her when our kids were little and showered her with loads of love and affection. But my goodness, she was a rebellious pup. Any of you that have experience in raising a lab puppy already know where this is going. Digested baby blankets; furniture being treated as chew toys; cats and squirrels being chased; Halloween candy stolen; water faucets being ripped off the side of the house.

Wait, what was that last one? Did I catch you off guard? That’s a true story.

Us Lands were out of town and on the way back. I had a youth group kid house/dog sitting to keep things somewhat under control. Then I got a call when we were about an hour away.

“Queso just pulled the watcher faucet off the side of the house! There is water going everywhere! What do I do?”

Apparently she was, in typical lab fashion, playing tug-o-war with the hose (which was screwed into the faucet). And apparently she won! The faucet bent; water was shooting out of the side of our house.”

We loved that dog, but she also drove us crazy. Sometimes it was cute and funny, sometimes it made me seriously angry and made me debate the wisdom in having a dog.

We love pets because God has made us to live with, among and in community with animals, and some animals (like dogs) really reflect our origins in the Garden. Running, playing and cuddling with these cuties (like the lion and the lamb one day will do). But there’s also a prickly side to these beasts because they aren’t always tame. We love them when they act like they are part of the holistic order, but not so much when they try to rise up above their “proper order” (i.e. underneath us as their “bosses”).

This is where we find God and Job in a conversation. Job, in the midst of being horribly plagued by death, disease and destruction, understandably contests God’s rule of the world, claiming that it isn’t “just”. After many chapters of complaints, God finally speaks us with a barrage of “get in your place, little man” comments. He perpetually asks things like, in Job 38:4, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” — God then goes into the specifics of listing the animals of the world that he not only designed but continually cares for. Then he gets into a while beast named Leviathan. We don’t know if this is a) a mythical creature in Job’s time that would have brought about terror; b) a commonly known animal that instilled fear, like an alligator; or c) a unknown-to-us beast like a dinosaur (or dragon? go read the description in Job 41, it is wild!). What we do know is how ludicrous it would be for Job to think that he could subdue such a monstrous creature and make it a pet for his daughters.

Yet this is exactly what we try to do with God

Job 41:10
No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up.
Who then is he who can stand before me?

We try to “tame and declaw the Lion of Judah” as some have said. We don’t like it when God gets “out of line” and goes against what we perceive as the “proper order”. Namely, we are in charge and it’s better for God, like children, to be seen and not heard. We want the cuddles of God, but not the quills; the smile but not the growl. We want a divine pet that we can control and put in a cage when He gets aggressive.

But this isn’t who God is, or who we are. He isn’t a tame beast that we, in our little and limited lives, can put a bridle in his mouth (Job 41:13) to tell him where to go and how quickly.

And though this is super uncomfortable and frustrating to our pride, this is exactly the God that we need. We need an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God that is so far above us that He will do things that are best which we don’t understand or agree with, like we when take our children to the doctor. We have an untamed, powerful and passionately jealous God who will go, and has gone, to the edges of the Earth, and even to the Cross, to redeem and renew his Beloved.

So my proper response, like Job’s at the end of his book, is to be humbly wide-eyed and mystified by the Glory, Beauty and Love of our True Lion of Judah.

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