(This is not the start of a mindless joke about dyslexia; I am totally serious about what follows.)
One of life’s most perplexing matters is this: How can someone love a truly unlovable person? I have seen this enough times to know it’s true: For reasons that I don’t quite understand, people who seem to deserve little or no love are still beloved by others around them.
Where this is most apparent—over and over again, and with few exceptions—is in the obvious love that dogs exhibit toward their owners, masters or companions. People-friendly pooches wag their tails and snuggle up to wretchedly wicked humans. Unless psychologically marred by their owners’ violence toward them, dogs come when they are called and seem to enjoy being in the presence of someone who the rest of us might recoil from. Puppies play happily with people who disregard others. As I said, this is one of life’s mysteries, mostly because—swallow your species prejudices here—dogs are not stupid.
Here’s the deal: Love is not stupid either. Loving someone—whether you’re a dog or a child or a spouse—is not a transaction. Being devoted to another person doesn’t depend on some kind of relational arithmetic. Love may be more than just a reaction—to something good, something favorable to your well-being, something where you “win.”
Dogs know this, and so does God. So when I see the meanest person in the neighborhood being fawned over by her/his dog, I’m not thinking: “What a dumb dog!” Instead, I’m reminded that that individual—and me too—is not loved by God because of some innate worthiness inside of us. I’m called to prayers of gratitude that I am beloved simply because love is stronger than my sinfulness, fears and hate.
Or spiritual dyslexia.