Maggie is 8 years old. She’s had surgery on two hips, and can’t get around as well as she used to. Honey just turned 2 and has more energy than anybody needs. Boundless! She’ll run and run and run until she collapses.
Did I mention that Maggie and Honey are both 75-pound Labrador retrievers (or “Labradorks,” as a friend refers to them)?
I’ve always been a dog lover, and especially retriever lover – Golden or Lab – but meeting Honey and Maggie this week was a real joy. They have that goofy, friendly, love-to-love-and-be-loved way of being that is typical of Labs. Maggie is motivated by food, and happy to gobble it down. Honey will get about halfway through her meal, see her Kong toy and look around for someone to throw it.
Maggie would happily wander over and finish Honey’s meal if permitted to do so.
But Honey and Maggie also have a pattern of cooperative behavior that seems like a good model for folks in the community of faith. Honey is a lot faster than Maggie is now, and can run a lot farther without tiring out. Honey will scramble under fences, and race across the pasture to retrieve the toy that’s thrown as far and as often as possible. She’ll then race back towards the thrower.
What Honey won’t do is give the toy back. She’ll hover about 10 feet away, torn between her desire to have the toy thrown again, and her reluctance to give up her precious toy. That’s where Maggie comes in. Maggie, who will have run about halfway towards the toy, will come to where Honey is hovering. Honey will then drop the toy, Maggie will pick it up, come over to the human friend, and toss it (not drop it) at their feet. And it will start again.
Honey and Maggie each have their gifts. They each have something to offer in the relationship of playing with a human. Honey has her boundless energy and unwillingness to quit, but lacks that ability to let go. Maggie, no longer able to run forever, has the ability to encourage Honey to let go of the treasure, and to toss it back to let the game begin again. Well, maybe it’s a game. Maybe it’s a gift of unconditional love, uncomplicated relationship, and time for mind-clearing relaxation for human companions.
Maggie and Honey have worked out a way for each of them to use their gifts in ways that enhance relationship. Maggie can’t do what Honey does, and Honey is unable or unwilling to do what Maggie does, so each of them does what she can, and works together so that the whole thing functions well for everyone.
Would that it were so in the Church. Too often there is a sense that the ministry that “what I do is important, but what you do has less value.” But every part of the Church community is needed, and they cannot work independently. In first Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul use the image of the Spirit as a body, talking about the different parts of the body, and how each of them is vital, and that none should value themselves above the others. This week, Honey and Maggie reminded me of the same thing.
The Rev. Dr. Joanne Sizoo is pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill. Contact her at email@example.com.