I didn’t like animals, but that changed

Do you ever stop and consider where your thoughts come from? Don’t you wish you could just take those stray thoughts by the throat and wrestle them to the ground and say, “Where did you come from?”

It took a passage from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, for me to realize I had wrong ideas about part of God’s creation. For as long as I can remember I have not been an animal lover. Please don’t judge. I’ve changed.

What triggered my change in thinking? I saw a twitter post that said Leona Helmsly’s dog, the world’s richest dog, died with a $12 million estate. The dog’s personal security expense was $100 thousand dollars annually.

That sickened me. I knew I needed to examine why.

That day I read a passage from my favorite book, The Great Divorce. It was the final speech of C.S. Lewis’ character George MacDonald, a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister who pioneered the field of fantasy literature in the 19th century. MacDonald inspired Lewis by his work, so he became a key character in one of his own fantasy novels.

In case you haven’t read it, The Great Divorce is a fictional story about a group of people who ride a bus from hell to heaven. MacDonald is a resident of heaven who becomes a guide for the main character, one of the residents of hell in the “grey town” below.

When one of the “grey town” visitors asks if anyone could go from heaven to hell, MacDonald got down on his hands and knees and plucked a blade of heaven’s grass. He explained that the bus and passengers came up through a tiny crack as small as the blade of grass. With a deep Scottish brogue, he said,

“All hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world, but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the real world.”

“The damned are shrunk up in themselves…their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes are fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts or their mouths for food or their eyes to see.”

“Can no one reach them?”, the visitor asks. Can anyone travel from heaven to hell?

MacDonald says,

“Only the greatest of all can make himself small enough to enter hell. For the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend.”

It was the next thing MacDonald said that helped me change my thinking about animals:

“Man can sympathize with a horse, but a horse cannot sympathize with a rat.”

Why did I have an aversion to animals? I have been reading C.S. Lewis’ works since before I came to know and love Jesus Christ. Most all of his allegorical works, including some of his best overall works, are fantasy novels with talking animals.  Even with my lack of affection for animals, I have enjoyed Lewis’ books. His treatment of the animals and his message through them was always somehow acceptable to me.

My thinking changed. Put simply, I have not allowed myself to have affection for animals because so many people attribute human qualities to them. They treat their animals like children of their own. This may sound hard-hearted to you, but I think people spend too much of their time, their energy, and their money on animals. Did you know the USA and Europe spend $17 billion dollars every year on pets, while only $0.81 billion is invested in reaching the unevangelized? Did you know 4.5 million people are victims of human trafficking? My thinking has been that if you value a dog like a child, you are actually devaluing human beings that need your limited attention. That harsh judgment had to change.

I still think we should be careful to give attention to human beings created in the image of God. But just because other people have an excessive affection for animals does not mean I should disrespect animals, part of God’s good creation, or, for that matter, disrespect people who care for animals.

So this is what I do: I do not elevate animals to human status when I show affection to them; I “descend” or condescend. When you stoop to love an animal, you exercise the kind of grace that God himself shows when he condescends to love us.

I still do not agree with those people who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on their pets. However, I can condescend with the same kind of love and affection that Jesus shows to me.

I will continue to devote my resources to Jesus’ mission. However, I will not reject animals. I can show them kindness and have more patience with those who are affectionate with animals.

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. – 2 Cor. 10:3-6

When the apostle Paul wrote those words to the church in Corinth, he instructed them to wrestle their stray thoughts to the ground. So this is what I do. I ask: “Where did this thought come from? Is it a Biblical thought or not?”

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