Visiting Teaching Message September 2014: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Comforter

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

From the formal message:

Jesus Christ promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).

baby (2)

“It’ll be like you don’t even have a dog,” promised my husband before I agreed to let him get a puppy. To be true, he did try to do what he could. But since I worked from home, dog care evolved into much of my daily routine. I didn’t mind for the most part. Because I was lonely, I liked the company of the  dog. I soon grew to rely up on him— I firmly believe that there really is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog to teach you about the love of Christ.

Being unintentionally childless, he was my baby. I found sitters for him when I would be gone for more than 3 hours, just as all of the doggy manuals taught. I was picky about his food, and was even fussier about other dogs we had playdates with. As soon as he was “trained” and a little before, he slept by my feet, in the bed shared by my husband and me….and as he grew to adult-dog size, he sometimes crowded me (or hubby) out of bed.

I took him visitDCP02520 (2)ing teaching with me. I ordered him ice cream cones or a  side of bacon at drive-thrus, and instructed the fast-food workers to hand the item directly to him the back seat, where he gently and gratefully received the nosh. A photo of him (being held by the person I wrote about) was among selected images that were published in an academic journal article. He waited at home by the door, or sometimes went with me to four different rounds of  IVF. And when I still came home childless, he licked me, and his fur absorbed my tears. He sat at alert when I was ill, and snuggled me when I was lonely. He comforted me. Greatly. To no end.

 

Now, when I think of Christ as a “Comforter,” as this message tries to relay …. I can, on many occasions, think of times when I had a feeling of peace come over me. Sometimes, it was just a feeling. Other times, it seemed almost a physical sense of warmth. More times than not, the comfort came in the vessel of someone else: The visiting teaching companion who brought me a meal when I was too sick to prepare one for myself, the Relief Society president who brought me lunch and listened to me speak of a recent suicide attempt of a dear friend, the stranger who gave me the coin to get a shopping trolley on a particularly trying day, when I was frustrated to tears, and…. the dog– my dog– who licked dry my tears. The comfort of Christ might come though others- human and not human– but it is still of Christ.

John14:18 “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

This scripture is included with the message from this month, and it brings me hope and light. It reminds me that He can come to me, I need not climb a mountain, drive 8 hours to attend the temple, become miraculously perfect, or wait for a month of Sundays to gain peace from Him. He will come to me… but how?

 

In a literal sense, the Saviour is not physically present in that car or in our home. What does He do when He needs to give us a very direct message? I feel that what He often does is to delegate one of His sons and daughters to be the conduit of His message. We know He sends many kinds of blessings to His children through others of His children. Why would He not bless us by raising up an example for us when we need it? He might not speak to us in person; He may not even send us a telegram; but what He very well might do is send one of His other children to represent an example of what we need to see.” – Karen Lynn Davidson, A Heritage of Faith, 1988, 190.

 

I think that equal to the example that Davidson is talking about is the enactment of comforting. As a visiting teacher, that made me wonder if I am a source of comforter to those around me, not just the women I am assigned to visit teach. Because really, it is little help to just tell someone to seek Christ for comfort, especially when there are ample opportunities for me to enact the comfort that Christ would have me, on His behalf. To be clear, it is still powerful to teach others to seek the comfort of Christ’s love and light, but it is entirely, perfectly more powerful to enact the light of Christ by seeking ways to offer comfort. In this digital age, the sound of a good friend’s voice over the phone, the hug from a child or friend, and the reassuring smile of a stranger in the congregations before the nervous words being to tumble from our mouths—all can bring the pace of Christ’s comfort.

Just like my dog.halloween

 

Just before last Christmas, we had the horrible news that he had spinal cancer. Within two weeks, he went from walking with a limp to being unable to stand. Now weighing 55 kilos (about 120 pounds), I wedged a blanket under him so I could slide him in and out of the house, and from room to room where I was working or cleaning, so we could be together—just as he had been with me for the 8 years since he had joined our family. He was too heavy for me to carry upstairs to sleep in –our- family bed, so at night, we moved mattresses and blankets downstairs to sleep together on the floor. The time shortly came, and his spirit left his body.

The diagnosis and his death had come as a shock; we had arranged for a dog sitter for a long weekend away, but clearly no longer needed them. It was the strangest feeling to return home after that trip. My husband and I both dawdled outside of the house, finally breaking into tears. Neither of us wanted to open then door– to see an empty hallway where the joyously wagging tail had -before then- greeted us, even when we had only been gone a few minutes. Comparatively, think about how lonely it can be when you attend church and not a single person says more than “hello” in passing. It’s happened to me. It hurts. It does not make you want to go back, it does not make you feel welcome.

 

A dear friend offered to come and clean out our beloved pooch’s things, which I am utterly grateful that she did… her compassion and reverence, as she put his things in storage or arranged for donations to animal shelters, brought deep comfort. Another dear friend offered condolences, and shared that she wept for the loss of her beloved dog who had passed away years earlier. Yet another friend weeks after, asked how we were doing. They understood like few others that we had lost a member of our family.

It was only after he had gone that I realised that his companionship was an ongoing comfort that I needed at that time in my life. Walking him, I would pray and ponder about everything – creating a spiritual space that I would not have otherwise comprehended to create. No matter how grumpy I was, how much I failed or succeeded, he still wagged his tail, barked, jumped up and kissed me when he saw me. When he saw me cry, he would come and whimper, too. I came to believe that Christ sent this dog to be a physical comforter for me.

 

Job 12: (7-10), especially 10: In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.

 

After he passed, I became embarrassed to admit how much I missed him, but I still cried privately, wishing I could ask for forgiveness for not taking him to the beach as much as I used to before our adopted children arrived, and for being grumpy when he ate the freshly baked gingerbread men from the kitchen bench top. Church doctrine seemed void of information about the Plan of Salvation that would include my dog, and in my grief, I began to panic just a little. Something in me needed to know that I could see him again. Finally, Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 gave that to me:

 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

20 All go unto one place

 

It was a small, yet profound comfort. It was a witness to me that my dog was sent a comforter to me, and that in missing him, Christ also expressed comfort to me in my loss.

From the message:

He will give us “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning” (Isaiah 61:3). Because Christ suffered the Atonement for each of us, He will not forget us. “Our Savior has taken upon Himself … our pains and our suffering and afflictions so that He can know what we feel and how to comfort us,” said Linda S. Reeves, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.

mo

So- what is there to learn about comfort, and about loss, and about service? I think that people and animals are the ways, means and vessels in which Christ comforts us. And for me, I think about those who have been hurt, neglected, or… even who I am to visit teach, but have nothing in common… and I think that the least I can do is greet them as though I were wagging my tail; I might fetch a ball when they ask me (or provide a meal/ride/support), walk with them as they seek guidance, revelation or just fresh air, as well as offer a listening, non-judging ear….or maybe I’ll run up a slide or across a street just to greet and hug them—all the while expressing unconditional love and comfort.

Christ is the comforter, but I am His hands. My experience in being a pet owner taught me this better than words. It is up to me to bring Christ to those in need of comfort and the least I can do is greet them with a happily wagging tail. In that, I truly believe the rest will fall into place.

 

How can you bring comfort to those you visit teach? For a lovely example, check out Jenny’s post, Representing Christ.

 


Dans le message, Jésus Christ a promis : « Je ne vous laisserai pas orphelins, je viendrai à vous » (Jean 14 :18).

« Ce sera comme si tu n’as même pas de chien, » m’a promis mon mari avant que lui ai donné mon accord pour prendre un chiot. Et honnêtement, il a essayé de faire ce qu’il pouvait, mais comme je travaillais à la maison, les soins du chiens se sont incrusté dans mon quotidien à moi. Cela ne me dérangeait pas trop : je me sentais seule et j’aimais bien le chien. Bientôt je me suis mise à dépendre de lui et je crois qu’il n’y a rien comme l’amour inconditionnel d’un chien pour nous enseigner l’amour du Christ.

Comme je n’avais pas d’enfants, il était mon bébé. J’ai trouvé des baby-sitters quand je savais que je serais absente plus de 3 heures, comme me recommandaient tous les manuels pour chien. Je choisissais avec soin sa nourriture et avec encore plus de soin ses amis chiens. Dès qu’il était propre il dormait à mes pieds dans le lit que je partageais avec mon mari, et une fois atteint sa taille adulte, il poussait l’un de nous souvent du lit.

Il m’a accompagné dans mes visites d’enseignement. Je lui ai commandé des cornets de glace ou un peu de poitrine fumé au drive des fast-food et demandais aux caissiers de lui donner sa nourriture directement par la fenêtre arrière, où il la recevait gentiment et avec reconnaissance. Sa photo figurait dans un article que j’ai écrit pour un journal académique. Il m’attendait à la porte ou bien il m’accompagnait à chacune de mes quatre tentatives de FIV. Et quand je rentrais toujours sans enfant, il me léchait et sa fourrure absorbait mes larmes. Il veillait sur moi quand j’étais malade et me faisait des câlins quand je me sentais seule. Il me consolait énormément.

Quand je pense au Christ dans son rôle de Consolateur je pense aux moments quand j’ai ressenti la paix venir sur moi. Parfois c’était seulement un sentiment. D’autres fois c’était une chaleur physique. Le plus souvent, cette consolation venait par l’intermédiaire de quelqu’un d’autre : ma compagne de visite qui m’apportait des repas quand j’étais malade, la président de Société de Secours qui m’a écouté parler de l’attentat de suicide d’un ami cher, l’inconnu qui m’a donné une pièce pour le chariot quand je passais une journée difficile, et toujours, toujours le chien. La consolation du Christ vient souvent par l’intermédiaire des autres, mais elle vient toujours du Christ.

Jean 14 :18 « Je ne vous laisserai pas orphelins, je viendrai à vous »

Cette Ecriture se trouve dans le message du mois et elle m’apporte de l’espoir et de la lumière. Elle me rappelle qu’il peut venir à moi. Je n’ai pas besoin de grimper une montagne, de conduire 8 heures au temple, de devenir parfait miraculeusement, ou d’attendre un mois de dimanche pour recevoir de la paix de Lui. Il viendra à moi…mais comment?

« Le Sauveur n’est pas physiquement présenta avec nous. Que fait-il alors quand il a besoin de nous transmettre un message directe ? Je pense qu’il délègue ce message à l’un de ses fils ou à l’une de ses filles. Nous savons qu’il nous envoie plusieurs types de bénédiction à ses enfants par l’intermédiaire des autres. Pourquoi ne nous bénirait-il en nous envoyant un exemple pour nous quand nous en avons besoin ? Il ne nous parle pas face-à-face, il ne nous envoie pas un télégramme, mais il nous enverra l’un de ses autres enfants pour représenter l’exemple de ce que nous avons besoin de voir. » –Karen Lynne Davidson, A Heritage of Faith, 1988.

En tant que sœur visiteuse, je me demande si je suis une source de consolation pour celles autres de moi, et non seulement pour les femmes que je dois enseigner. La voix d’un bon ami au téléphone, un câlin d’un enfant ou d’un ami ou un sourire rassurant d’un inconnu peuvent tous apporter la paix et la consolation du Christ.

Tout comme mon chien.

Juste avant Noël, on nous a annoncé qu’il avait un cancer de la moelle épinière. En moins de deux semaines il n’arrivait plus à se tenir debout. Il pesait autour de 55 kilos, donc j’ai mis une couverture sous son corps pour que je puisse le glisser de salle en salle. Je voulais qu’on soit ensemble. Il était trop lourd pour moi à porter donc nous avons mis nos matelas et nos couvertures par terre dans le salon pour dormir ensemble. Le temps est passé vite et son esprit a quitté son corps.

Sa maladie est sa mort nous avaient surpris ; nous avions embauché un baby-sitter pendant un weekend, mais soudain nous n’en avions plus besoin. A la fin du weekend, mon mari et moi hésitions devant la porte avant de recommencer à pleurer. Ni l’un ni l’autre de voulait ouvrir la porte et voir que l’entrée était vide du chien et sa queue qui remuait joyeusement, toujours heureux de nous voir, même après seulement quelques minutes. Une amie a offert de venir prendre ses affaires. J’en suis tellement reconnaissante : sa compassion et sa révérence nous a profondément consolés.

C’était seulement après sa mort que je me suis rendue compte que sa compagnie était une consolation continue dont j’avais besoin pendant cette période de ma vie. En le promenant, je faisais des prières et je pensais à tout, ce qui a créé un temps spirituel que je n’aurais pas créé autrement. Peu importe mon humeur, il remuait toujours sa queue, me sautait dessus et me léchait quand il me voyait. Il gémissait aussi quand je pleurais. Je crois que le Christ m’a envoyé ce chien pour me consoler.

Job 12 :10 Il tient dans sa main l’âme de tout ce qui vit, Le souffle de toute chair d’homme.

Après sa mort, je n’admettais pas combien il me manquait, mais je pleurais souvent en secret. La doctrine du Plan de Salut me semblait vide sans mon chien et dans ma tristesse, je commençais à paniquer un peu. J’avais besoin de savoir que je le reverrais un jour. Enfin, Ecclésiastes 3 :19-20 m’a donné cela :

« Car le sort des fils de l’homme et celui de la bête sont pour eux un même sort; comme meurt l’un, ainsi meurt l’autre, ils ont tous un même souffle, et la supériorité de l’homme sur la bête est nulle; car tout est vanité. Tout va dans un même lieu. »

C’était une petite mais profonde consolation.

Dans le message :

« Il nous donnera « un diadème au lieu de la cendre, une huile de joie au lieu du deuil » (Ésaïe 61:3). Parce que le Christ a souffert les douleurs de l’Expiation pour chacun d’entre nous, il ne nous oubliera pas. Linda S. Reeves, deuxième conseillère dans la présidence générale de la Société de Secours, a dit : « Notre Sauveur a pris sur lui […] nos douleurs, nos souffrances et nos afflictions afin de savoir ce que nous éprouvons et comment nous réconforter. » »

Le Christ est le Consolateur, mais je suis ses mains. Mon expérience avec mon chien m’a appris cela mieux que des paroles sur le sujet. C’est à moi d’amener le Christ à ceux qui ont besoin de consolation.

Comment pouvez-vous apporter de la consolation à celles que vous visitez ?

 

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Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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6 Responses

  1. EmilyCC says:

    I love this VT message so much, and I miss your sweet dog, too. Is it strange that Facebook can give us glimpses into other’s lives that we mourn their dog’s passing?

  2. Sandy says:

    Such a beautiful message how everyday we are touched by our Savior’s love through earth angels and our beloved pets…

  3. Domystique says:

    Thank you for sharing the story about your dog. It comes at the perfect time for me. Our dog was just put down this week. I did have the same question of whether or not I would see him again. Your scripture brings me comfort.

  4. April says:

    I love this message. I have two dogs, but fostered a rottweiler. I was faced with the terrible news that his hips were so damaged from dysplasia that he was in excruciating pain and must be put down. I felt that I would never recover. A few weeks later I was contacted by a rescue organization to foster an elderly poodle who had bounced from shelters to rescues to fosters for about two years. This little guy has truly rescued me. I don’t know how long I will have him, but he is so loving and tender. Heavenly Father truly sent me comfort in this dog.

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