As good as dead is not the same as dead


We have three dogs. We acquired Moo when my son Abram went off to grad school. Sadie was my father-in-law's dog. When he passed away, Sadie came to us as part of the estate. Then there is Socks.

When my oldest daughter turned 8, she wanted a dog. We bought her a beagle, named Jewel, who wouldn't stay home. Jewel had a romantic encounter with a Labrador retriever, and before we knew it, puppies were on the way. I put my foot down and said we could not keep any puppies. My children whined and pleaded. We negotiated down to keeping one puppy. Then the puppies were born.

There were six. I grew up where dogs were often given the name "Dog." The children gave every puppy a first and middle name. Pleas were entered 10 minutes after the last one was born to keep all the puppies. Negotiations continued for the next six weeks. We finally settled on keeping two: Nickel and Socks, the runt of the litter.

Socks and Nickel inherited their mother's wandering blood. Socks learned how to climb the chain link fence and open the gate for her sister. They would roam the woods, tracking deer, crossing roads. Because the church was near my house, I would often look out my office window and see my dogs hot on the trail of some critter. I received about three calls a week: "Do you know your dogs are out preacher?" "Yep. They'll come home when they get hungry."

Her sister, Nickel, died about 10 years ago and without her running buddy, Socks, became a homebody. She aged gracefully, never demanding attention but content to sleep, eat and pass gas. Sounds like retirement for some folks I know.

About a year ago, when Socks was 15, we found her staring blankly at a wall. We took her to the vet and found out she'd had a stroke. Her heart was weak, so she was given medicine to strengthen her heart and an anti-depressant to keep her alert (who knew dogs could take anti-depressants?). She perked up and was doing pretty well for someone 105 in dog years.

Then last week, she crashed. Socks wouldn't eat or drink. She seemed crippled in her back legs. Off to the vet we went.

You know you are getting older when the vet turns out to be someone your kids went to high school with. The vet took some blood samples and did an echo-cardiogram. She came in to tell me that Socks' heart was worse, and the blood tests showed her kidneys were shutting down. The outlook wasn't good. The vet kindly offered to euthanize Socks, but I wanted the family to have a chance to say goodbye.

I brought her home, and we all loved on her, knowing her time was short. She wasn't eating or drinking. For two days, I checked on her every hour to make sure she was still breathing.

Then on the third day, Socks drank a little water. In the night, she had a horrific bowel movement (I slept through it, so my wife caught the worst of it). We were sure the third day would be her last.

I can't stand to see anyone or anything hungry, a trait I get from my father. I offered Socks some peanut butter and she nibbled it. Later, Gina fed her a spoon of canned dog food. The next day she ate some dry dog food and chicken. By the fifth day, she cleaned her bowl and looked at me expectantly wanting more. The other dogs, after avoiding her for days the way well people avoid sick people, began to interact with her. By the sixth day, it was clear Socks was not going to die; she was going to live.

Twice in the New Testament (Romans 4 and Hebrews 11) Abraham is referred to as a man "as good as dead." He was, after all, 100 years old in people years. But God had other plans. God enabled him to father a son, Isaac. A few years later, after his wife, Sarah, died, he married a younger woman and had whole clan of children. Apparently, being "as good as dead" is not the same as "dead."

Before you give up on your life, before you give up on God's promises, before you give up on your future, before you decide you are "as good as dead," check with God. "As good as dead" is not the same as "dead." Just because someone else has given up on you, or just because you have given up on yourself, doesn't mean God is done with you.

I've been tempted to go back to the vet. I don't really think I need to pay $50 for the vet to tell me, "Well, she's not dead." I can see that for myself.

Open your eyes. Open your soul. See that our good God is not done with you yet.

Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.