As you start this week, my challenge to you is to look around. Not up, not down, not inward, but around you. This is what I call, Horizontal Living.
There is a special place in my heart for pet lovers. I am one. “Almost human” is only hyperbole to those outside of our circle. It’s true, they are almost human. They become part of the family, and when they pass it goes deep.
Pets and the Horizontal Life
We raised our two children into their early teen years with a pet-sibling named Shiloh, a Corgi-Chihuahua mix. His last enemy was cancer, and he faced it bravely, whimpering himself to sleep at night in extreme pain. After his battle ended, I posted this in my blog:
“Shiloh, a cuddly little Corgi-Chihuahua mix, came into our lives some twelve years ago. Today we said goodbye. He sat on my lap all the way to the vets in Henniker. And all the way I worked to convince myself this was the best decision for him and us. A growth on his belly had taken over his life, leaving him uncomfortable and in pain.
“I thought it would be hard to leave him with the doctor. It was. But the hardest part was walking out of the clinic holding his collar. I made it a mile or so to Dunkin’ Donuts and pulled into a parking lot to weep and for the first time I wondered about the soul of a pet and Shiloh’s place in God’s universe.”
Later I stumbled on these verses in Job: “You have only to ask the cattle, for them to instruct you, and the birds of the sky, for them to inform you. The creeping things of earth will give you lessons, and the fish of the sea provide you an explanation: there is not one such creature but will know that the hand of God has arranged things like this! In his hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of every human being!” (Job 12.7-10).”
Shiloh taught us much about love, loyalty and commitment. I believe he is in God’s hands now. Caring deeply for the persons and things around us honors the God who made them and is the stuff of horizontal living.
Our Identity: Who We Are
Our pets are our best teachers when it comes to the horizontal life. They leave us three lessons: The first is about identity. Horizontal living reminds you of who you are – and who you are not. You are the creature, not the Creator. You are a worshiper not the one worshiped. You are an eternal spirit in a temporal body; God is the eternal Spirit.
Those of us who live in the flesh need these reminders continually. It keeps us away from the temptation of self-worship and the devil’s taunt, “You shall be as gods.” We are only guardians of things belonging to God and live best when we find our place in the world.
Our Responsibility: What We Do
A second lesson is about responsibility. Identity is knowing who you are. Responsibility takes that a step further to the things you do (or don’t do). We who are gifted to write should express ourselves in words for the benefit of others, either to entertain or inform. Those who are wealthy have the privilege and responsibility to share wealth and ease the sufferings of others in need.
Even the ordinary things of life present opportunities to serve. Cars, homes, friendships, family meals and vacations all carry a responsibility to engage and serve others.
Our Influence: Why We’re Here
A third lesson is about our influence in the world around us, beginning with our families and working outwards toward others.
A handful of people in my life have set that life on course. My first grade teacher, Mary Rising, loved me and let me be left-handed; Vera Dietsche, my first employer, taught me the importance of simplicity; My mom took me to church and modeled humility; my brother taught me about Christ.
Their influence lives on in the way I live my life.
On this Monday morning, it’s quite possible that you have not looked beyond the mirror and your first cup of coffee. You’ve got the whole rest of the day to do that.
And the rest of your life.