I have been reading a wonderful article from The Way journal by Andrew Linzey who is a theologian and writer on animal theology. I was delighted to discover that he has in fact published several books on the subject.
Linzey writes: “People who keep animals have often made an elementary but profound discovery: animals are not machines or commodities, but beings with their own God-given lives, individuality, and personality. At their best, relationships with companion animals can help us to grow in mutuality, self-giving, and trust.” (emphasis mine) He goes on to quote theologian Stephen Webb who sees in these relationships nothing less than the self-giving of God: “animals are more like gifts than something owned, giving us more than we expect and thus obliging us to return their gifts.”
I have written here often of the gifts of animal presence in my life. We live in a very anthropocentric world and our churches are no better. We have lost sight of the tremendous gift of wisdom creatures have to offer us, simply by virtue of their “otherness.” Animals don’t spend their lives, as far as I know, trying to rationalize and think through things, making important plans. Their gifts of instinctual and intuitive being, love, and care invite us into a bigger way of being ourselves.
Ever since Tune (or Petunia as I often call her) arrived in our life, she has become the new Abbess of our Abbey, her job for her retirement years (she spent her life in a breeding kennel). Sometimes she confuses that role with Princess, but mostly she is settling into her new vocation well and reminds me daily of the essential rhythms and needs of the body: Sleep. Stretch. Play. Walk. Nap. Eat. Snuggle. Really, what more can I ask for in my life. I have written before about a Rule of Life, and how this loose structure helps to remind me of what is most foundational in my life and build the rhythms of my day around these primary commitments.
With my recent struggles again with health and my efforts to reclaim the wisdom of my body’s limits, I grow in appreciation of the wisdom of my companion animal who guides me in listening for the body’s deepest messages and responding with love. She invites me to refine my Rule of Life around this new invitation I have been experiencing to consider honoring my body as my primary vocation.
What practices and gentle structures in your life would help you to honor your body’s rhythms more deeply? Are there any creatures in your life to offer wisdom on this path?
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts
Amen Kievas, I completely agree!
Animals, domesticated and otherwise, are an essential part of our lives. In some ways, I think they represent God’s creation in its purest form.
PS — If I didn’t live in a condo I’d definitely have at least three furry expressions of God too! :-)
Mmmmm. . .those Lindt balls are scrumptious!
Thank you Carla and welcome! How fun to find each other this way, I have enjoyed journeying around your blog a bit too. I would be delighted to have you over for tea at the Abbey sometime. When you get to your email just reply to me with some good times.
Blessings to you, Christine
Christine, your blog feels like a sanctuary! I *love* this post and could share endlessly about my big furry expressions of God named Elliott, Lucy and Silas. At 16-1/2 Elliott is a constant teacher on making the best of life including new physical limitations. Lucy is a three-legged dog (actually she has 4 legs, it’s just that one is invisible *and* magical :)) who knows no limitations except vinyl flooring. And Silas enjoys being in his body like no one I’ve ever known! They are my mentors in life.
I’m so pleased you emailed me (I’m on my laptop tonight which doesn’t access my regular email) and wonder if we could meet in person sometime … perhaps for tea? … if /when your schedule allows. I visit Capitol Hill regularly and would love to see the Abbey and meet Tune. :)
Oh, that look of longing! I am familiar with it too, when my hubby holds up a Dove chocolate in the air above my head :) aka: “Lindt Truffle – The Goddess of Chocolate” – so revered!