Pastoral Care and Connections Message

“Hey Dobie, do you believe in God?” I queried as we walked into the sanctuary of Allegheny National Forest. “Depends,” my 90-pound canine companion responded as he poked his nose under a decaying log.

“Depends on what?” I asked, somewhat surprised he would be so cagey with his response to a profoundly important question. He dug his nose in deeper, apparently keen on a fresh sent, “Depends on what’s in it for me,” he muffled from under the log.

“Are you telling me God exists only for your own personal fulfillment? Like some sort of Santa Claus God?” I gasped, stopping in my tracks. He pulled his nose out and looked at me with his patient, soft auburn eyes, “It’s not personal fulfillment, it’s personal existence. That’s what God does, confirms our personal existence.”

“Now there’s a thought!” I thought. I continued down the path, Dobie pulled in behind me, close on my heels, and Lady, our white and tan Brittany, chaotically raced off in the distant trees chasing down smells and innocent deer.

I had to press on, I turned and knelt in front of him, “So, you’re suggesting God is merely a projection of our deep need for reassurance?” “I’m not suggesting it, I know it,” he declared with a flick of his tail. Intrigued by his confidence, “Okay, I’ll bite, how do you know this?”

“Because,” looking directly at me, he replies, “human beings have at their core a deep insecurity as to their reason for existence. It’s what drives those relentless questions ‘Why am I here?’ ‘What am I supposed to do with my life?’ and ‘What is my purpose?’. As if these questions can be answered with any satisfaction. Yet, humans can’t resist asking them.” With that he dashed off into the woods after a sound only he could hear.

I wondered what he would answer if I asked him what was the purpose of my life? Probably to feed him, walk him and love him with all my might. He had a point though. I looked up at the tops of the black cherry, maple and other hardwoods, mainly second growth, because, apparently, a tree’s purpose is to serve the needs of humans. I saw Lady zig zagging between trees, erratic and joyful in her purpose. Dobie reappeared, stopped and raised a leg to mark one of the trees.

“Dobie,” I said, as we continued down the path, “sounds like you got it all figured out. So, do you believe in a god?” “Sometimes I believe in the god that lives in the mirror,” he quips, ears perked up, listening to the sounds of Lady crashing through the brush.

“What are you talking about?” I asked, “What god in the mirror?” Very slowly, for he was now closely watching what Lady was doing, he says “When I look in the mirror, which isn’t very often, I see a god worth believing in.”

I burst out in laughter, “But Dobie, that’s just a reflection of you.” “Oh, is it?” he says, taking off for the chase. I realized he had his reassurance in the mirror, he

knew he existed. And, he didn’t feel a need to ask why or for what? With all his terrorizing of the wildlife in the woods, I’m not sure I should ask either.

I suppose believing in a god, God, or several gods, even without any provable evidence, for millions of people leads to a transcendent experience that claims our attention with a compelling, and irresistible need to explore. It places our consciousness beyond our self and our very limited perspective. And it tells us there is more to life than mere merriment and the accumulation of junk. Hopefully, it will also call us to honor the trees, the waters, and the planet. If we’re guided to get up every day, and lead a good life of love, maybe it doesn’t matter if God is a projection of our anxious need for reassurance.

I heard the heavy panting behind me, indicating both Lady and Dobie are behind me. “Dobie, I’m glad you’ve been following me for so many years,” I told him with tears in my eyes. “You’re good company, and a wise teacher.”

“As long as you keep feeding me, taking me for walks and pouring your love on me, we’re good to go for many miles,” he pants back, wagging this tail. I guess I found my purpose in life.

With irresistible curiosity, Rev. Kate