Valentine’s Day edition, for this hunk of burnin’ love:
Max was thankfully already trained in basic commands when I got him. And while I continue to use those commands and work with him some, I am not stern enough to enforce any big changes in his behavior.
For instance, I have been trying to teach him to shake since October, and to no avail. I cannot transform him in that way.
Of course, as is the case in these relationships, he has been a much better trainer of me than I of him. He has trained me where to scratch him so that it feels the best to him, when to feed him and play with him, and to show him as much attention as I can.
During one of our walks I was thinking about this drive I have to transform him, to make him a better, more obedient pet.
And I realized that that drive extends beyond my relationship with Max. I have a drive to transform the people around me too, especially those who are very close to me. I want to help them become better people. This desire has even unconsciously gotten wrapped up in my vocation, which is not hard being a part of a church that takes as its mission: “Transforming people to transform the world.”
But, Max got me thinking – is transforming people really the most important thing? Is it even actually possible? And if it is not, what is the most important thing?
As I thought about my relationship with Max and with other people, I came to the conclusion that I really can’t transform people. That is something I literally cannot do. I can inspire, I can teach, I can set an example, but I cannot actually transform anyone. That is something that has to happen within the person (or dog).
Moreover, this drive to transform the person (or dog), and thus control them, seems to mask the truly important thing in life.
So, what then is that most important thing? Well, I asked Max, and over the months we’ve lived together he has shown me over and over that it is to love people (and dogs). That is what matters.
That doesn’t mean that transformation can’t happen. In fact, I’d say that love necessarily brings about transformation. Nothing is the same after love – real, complete, honest love. And I can still seek to inspire, teach, and live out an example with the hope that those things will convey love. But I must not seek to transform people as an immediate goal.
Because that intent to transform is one of control – and love does not seek to control. Quite the contrary, love surrenders. Love is surrender of self for all others. And it is surrender of the idea that we can control others and make them something else.
The only way true transformation can occur is through the surrender of self-sacrificial love. Control simply doesn’t have the same power, or any real power at all.
Thank you Max for teaching me that love is the most important thing, for proving that it is impossible for me to transform or control others, and for teaching me all this through your own love of me.