Our foster son has taken a lot of pride recently in keeping our deck nice and clean for us, and our dog…well, our dog really hasn’t.
Our dog Oz has this little “problem,” see—he was hit by a car a couple years ago and the impact broke his tail (which mostly recovered) and damaged his rectal and bladder nerves (which mostly didn’t), so he leaks pee and drops turds everywhere. He can’t help it. It has become almost endearing to us now—every time we come home, the sight of us usually inspires such excitement in him that he pees on our feet and poops in our way, but that sort of affection—however disgusting—is pretty precious. (I mean, he gets so excited to see us that he pees himself. Who wouldn’t want that kind of reception?)
Other people—our vet included—wondered why we didn’t put him down when he had the accident, but we were madly in love with him and we just couldn’t. We decided that we’d put up with the mess, that it was a small price to pay for such unconditional love.
It just requires that we sweep the turds off our front steps and our deck all the time.
So you can imagine our foster son’s frustration after he’d spent the entire day sweeping and cleaning the deck when Oz scrambled up there (he’s mastered the art of getting past the locked gate) and did his business all over the place.
“I hate this,” he grumbled. “You should get a new dog.”
We adopted Oz from another family when he grew too large for their small town house (he’s a 100-pound bear), and they knew he’d have a better life in the country. So he was completely house-trained when we got him, and then…yeah. The accident. He’s a mess now, true, but he’s our mess, and we love him anyway.
Love is pretty complicated. Yeah, it’s patient and kind and all that other beautiful stuff, but it’s complicated. It takes work and effort, and sometimes we have to clean up each other’s messes (literally and figuratively), but if we let it, it can flourish in spite of this inconvenience.
This is the miracle of grace.
So I tried to explain this to our foster son.
“He is a mess. You’re right about that,” I said. “But it’s not like he’s doing it on purpose. He can’t help it. He’s part of this family, and he loves us. Love is his gift to us, so we love him, too, mess and all.”
And then he got really quiet. His brow furrowed and he stared at the ground and he nodded. “Kind of like a foster kid, huh?”
And then I almost turned into a mess myself. It was hard to hold in the tears. But I managed to smile at him and say, “Yes. Exactly like a foster kid.”