God’s Transforming Power
From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
— 2 Corinthians 5:16a; 17 CSB
Scars and deformity — that is what you would see when you look at my beloved Algea. Yes, she is a dog, not a human, but she is a creature formed by our wonderful, ever-loving Creator. I was first informed about my sweet, furry girl with a phone call from the same rescue in Kansas where we had adopted Ajax, my high-energy, long-legged, intelligent, red, furry boy in February 2018. This rescue had placed Algea in different foster homes for over eight months. No one wanted her.
This described her entire life. She was born as a result of Weimaraner inbreeding mixed with chance, which left her with birth defects in both front paws, even though she was part Bernese mountain dog. She has eight toes and eight claws on her functional front paw and one full, non-functional paw with a second paw, which is shaped more like a giant thumb, on the other front paw. The rescue said she “freaked out” people because of her deformities. She had been chained in a yard and left to starve before the rescue saved her. The rescue had been in a dilemma: amputate the bad leg for aesthetic reasons with hope someone would adopt her, or give up and put her to sleep.
Could I consider adopting another unwanted, rejected canine? My heart was an automatic “yes,” but I knew that it would need to be a prayerful decision. Two hurdles were time — Wichita, Kansas, is a 15-hour round trip — and the expense of the adoption fee.
It was the first week of September and that is significant in the story because it demonstrated the providence of God, working when I was not aware. I was scheduled to lead a workshop in Kansas at a women’s conference the next weekend. When I called the director of the rescue, she was excited that we would even consider adoption. They had spent several thousand dollars restoring Algea’s health over those months because she had been so emaciated. The adoption fee was waived, and Gypsy, as she was named then, would be delivered to Salina on the day I was returning to Nebraska. Every obstacle had vanished. I renamed her Algea, who was the lesser goddess of pain, suffering and sorrow in Greek mythology.
She was afraid of people and other dogs because she had been beaten and neglected. She had suffered physically and emotionally. She is still a work in progress, but she continues to recover with love. Rebuilding trust is a slow and steady process.
I think of Jesus when he healed the man with the deformed hand in Luke 6. The crowd of religious leaders were not concerned with the man, only with their rules of observing the Sabbath. They most likely thought the man’s condition was his own fault anyway. He must have been being punished for his sin in their understanding. For them, the man and his suffering were of no consequence. Jesus saw past the situation and saw the person, seizing the opportunity to teach his followers, including us, an important concept. Helping and healing people is more important than our preconceptions of what may or may not be right or wrong. This man’s life was important to Jesus because he was created, loved and honored by God.
When I walk Algea, I am usually stopped at least once as she hops on her three functional legs (although indoors she will use the fourth by walking on the knuckle) and told that something is wrong with my dog. I thank them and inform that it is a birth defect and it is not painful. She has learned to cope with her physical disabilities. What I don’t share with strangers is how she is continually learning to cope with her emotional disabilities caused by the cruelty of people and other dogs.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 contrasts this earthly, physical body and the wonderful transforming power of Jesus in our lives! What may look like deformities and disabilities to our eyes are wonderfully made new. Even those deep scars caused by life that no one can see are transformed. We are new creations, just as the ugly caterpillar metamorphoses into the beautiful butterfly. There is hope for every creature of God when we cry out to him and lay our scars and disfigured lives at his forgiving feet. Hallelujah, God has called us to become new creations through his redeeming work in our lives.
Chaplain Brenda Lee
Director of Pastoral Services
Great Plains Health