Anyone who knows me knows that I am not much of an animal lover. I want to be, I try to be, but I’m just not. With that said we do own a dog, seven fish, and we just recently bought two robo-hamsters. We have, as a family, owned a snake as well and several other dogs before we found Roxy, who is the perfect fit for our family. I grew up with dogs, cats (outside), and my own hamsters (which I enjoyed). We also for six years of my life (from ages 6 to 12) owned rabbits, chickens and a cow (for a short period of time). Surrounded by all these animals you think that I would absolutely love animals but as I mentioned, I don’t. I actually find them to be a bit annoying, smelly, dirty and I absolutely hate animal hair in my home. I am very allergic to cats so would never ever own a cat and to be honest they freak me out. I always think they are going to pounce on my head, attack, and scratch out my eyes (Ok I`m being a little dramatic). Dogs are a different story. I can tolerate dogs. Small ones who barely shed mind you but I can tolerate them, as long as they conform to the way I want them to be. This is why Roxy, our dog (Shih Tzu and Jack Russell terrier mix), fits into our family so well. She is small, sheds very little, is submissive and she trained very easily. She had a few mishaps in her teen years which my husband and I swiftly and sternly corrected and now she is an almost perfect dog. She is loving, gentle, submissive, obedient, patient, quiet. and you know what I think she is happy. My only complaint with her is that she is somewhat timid and maybe even fearful at times and she barks too much when people come over. I enjoyed training Roxy. I was very good at it and it felt nice being in control of her so she could just relax and be a dog. Roxy definitely knows that Rob and I are the alphas in the home. What is lacking in me though is my ability to be affectionate with her or even give her attention at all. I take her for walks but that is the extent of our relationship now that I no longer have to train her. I’m glad the rest of the family members give her attention and affection, she just does not get it from me.
As mentioned above we recently (2 weeks ago) got two robo-hamsters, as the girls have been asking for a long time. We made the decision to get them fairly quickly one morning and we were all so excited that we went and bought all the supplies and the hamsters that same morning. We bought a really awesome enclosure (shown below) for them with lots of toys. When we got home we put together their new enclosure and put them in. The next day we took the hamsters out and put them in a box so they could get used to us. A few days later we put them in rolling balls so they could run around in the backyard. We did these things regularly for the first two weeks. Yesterday I once again took them out and put them in the box. Alexis, my six-year-old (who is the only one born an animal lover in our family), and I put our hands in the box so they can get used to us. We did this for about 10 minutes and then I put them back, as I noticed they were starting to freak out in the box. Running, fighting, trying to jump out of the box, etc. Once the hamsters were in their home Alexis left but I stayed so I could quietly watch Lily and Snow, our two tiny hamsters. What I saw broke my heart and as my heart broke the Lord opened my eyes to His truth.
What I saw after I put Lily and Snow back in their home, were two of God’s creatures so stressed out that they started attacking each other and running frantically in their wheel and home. And really I should not even say home because home is a place of comfort where you can be healthy, happy and free. The hamsters are not healthy, happy or free. They are in a false habitat that is so significantly different from where their home really is. Robo-hamsters are originally from the desert and run the equivalent of 4 marathons per night. These living creatures were created by God to run free and here I had two as prisoners running in a wheel. In that moment while the Lord was moving these truths from my head to my heart (My Descent into Heaven) I felt devastated and my heart mourned for Lily and Snow and for all creatures humans have enslaved. I also saw in their enslavement a reflection of human enslavement to sin. How we run the wheel of life without going anywhere. How we run through the maze of life only to end up back at the same wheel we just ran in moments before. How since the fall we have been living false lives in a false world. Just as the hamsters lives were completely altered when they became enslaved and their lives no longer even reflect who they were created to be, human lives were altered completely when sin entered the scene and our lives no longer reflect who we were created to be. Thank God for His love and mercy. What was a hopeless cause is now an opportunity to become something even greater and more beautiful. Because of Jesus`death on the cross the Holy Spirit dwells within us and through Him we are transformed into Jesus Himself. How amazing is that!! See God does bring good out of everything. He brings good out of our weaknesses, out of our brokenness, and yes even out of our sin. There would be no good in the world at all if it were not for the love and mercy of God. Let us trust in this truth it will set us free!!
In the light of this truth and the hope that it produces the Lord still wanted to reveal to me just how far we have fallen. It is in truly understanding how far we have fallen that we can truly understand the depths and width of God`s love and mercy. The devastation and suffering that humans have caused animals after the fall and throughout history has become a necessity for survival but it was never in God`s original plan for His creation. Before the fall (original sin) humans were not meant to eat meat therefore hunting animals, farming them and forcing them into mass production with horrible and inhumane living conditions was never meant to be. Before the fall humans were not meant to toil and labor, therefore animals were never meant to be used to help us carry this load and become our labor slaves. Before the fall there was no sin, (i.e., killing, stealing, rape, etc.), therefore animals were never meant to be used for protection. Before the fall there was no death, decay or disease, therefore animals were never meant to be used for medical research. And most of all, because it is not even a necessity for survival animals were not meant to be kept as pets for our own fleeting pleasure. Before the fall animals ran free and lived in communion and peace with humans and our relationship with all of nature was ordered. Now God`s original plan is disordered beyond recognition. On the other end of the pendulum animals were never meant to be put on the same level as humans as they are below humans in creation. All this means is that it is just as disordered when people treat their pets as if they are human and spend a disordered amount of their time, talent, and money on their pets. Time, talent, and money that should be given to help relieve human suffering. It hurts my spirit when I read about a fortune being left in a will to a dog. This is an extreme example as most people do not go this far but it just proves how far we have fallen from God`s original plan. There really needs to be a balance. This balance is the best we can do in our fallen world.
So here I was, in a moral dilemma. I own pets but now I understand how cruel it is to enslave animals for our pleasure. As I sat watching Lily and Snow in their captivity I called Rob upstairs to tell him about my moral dilemma. We had an amazing conversation. Through our conversation we came to the realization that animals have been domesticated for such a long time, therefore those species bred into captivity could no longer survive in the wild. These animals know nothing but captivity so it would actually be more cruel to release them into the wild. We looked it up and dogs have been domesticated for 15000 years and the robo-hamster around 30 years. This may not seem like a long time to us but because of the hamster’s short life span it actually ends up being 10 or more generations, so the equivalent of 1000 human years. Then the Lord showed me that it was when the first hamsters were enslaved that the original sin occurred. My eyes were opened to the ways in which culture is shaped and formed by sin. Fortunately, culture is also formed by good works and love. We don`t see it at the time but our sins, as well as our good works, have such far-reaching consequences. As a whole human race can you imagine each persons sin or good works shaping culture as we know it. What the Lord showed me about the hamsters is just one disordered decision one man-made about 30 years ago and now we as a human race keep these hamsters as pets for our own pleasure and it is so normal that we don`t even stop to think if it is wrong or not. It is so wrong yet culture has been formed by it. What about sins against sex, against marriage, against life, against our world? The effects of these sins are devastating. And to think all these sins were born out of Adam and Eve’s original sin and rebellion against God. The ripple effects are unimaginable. We are unable to see the real damage our sins cause. If we truly saw and understood this we would be unable to sin ever again. God sees the effects so clearly and with compassion He is moved to save us. To give us a way out. We as humans have made such a mess of everything.
After our conversation Rob and I came to the conclusion that animals, birds, insects, reptiles, and fish, have all been domesticated and this is now the reality of our fallen world. We have altered the reality that God originally planned before the fall in so many ways, this just being one of them. We decided that the best we could do for these hamsters is to take care of them really well. To learn everything we can about them and to give them the best life we can give them. We admitted that we messed up and rushed into buying the hamsters without finding out first what their needs are. After some reading I now know that the species of hamster we bought are the only species that prefers not to be handled. Well we bought them because Madison and Alexis wanted to hold them and play with them. I explained all this to my girls and they were so disappointed and upset that they are not able to handle them. I explained to the girls that we would be torturing Lily and Snow if we go against what nature intended. I think they understand but the truth is sometimes hard to hear and even harder to put into practice.
After Rob and I had finished talking I sat and watched Lily and Snow for a few minutes more. They had calmed down and looked so cute as they washed their faces with their paws. For the first time I felt a deep love and respect for animals and for all living creatures. Tears came to my eyes at the thought of how humans have hurt animals in so many ways. How we have enslaved them, tortured them, taken away their habitats through deforestation and pollution, wiping out entire species from the planet, etc. God gave us dominion over the animal kingdom not to destroy and abuse it but to protect it and nurture it. I now understand why St. Francis had such a love and respect for all creation. It was not because he was born an animal lover it was because God revealed to him what He has now revealed to me. I was not born an animal lover but I am one now. I feel a whole new love, respect, and responsibility for my pets now and I thank God for ordering in my heart what was once so disordered. For lifting the veil for me so that I now see clearly how sin can alter reality and change culture. I can personally contribute to the good of the world or to the destruction of the world. The choice is mine to make. I have free will and with the grace of God I choose good. I choose life. I choose love. I hope and pray that you too will choose the good. If enough people choose the good the world will become a better place and the future will be forever changed. We do not live in isolation. The sin of one affects the entire world, molds it and shapes it but so does the good. No sin is committed in this world without it having a devastating and everlasting impact on the world. So let us choose the good every moment.
I guess the ultimate good in this situation would be to not own pets at all because if the entire human race refused to keep animals as pets the domesticated species would die out and then once again fish, reptiles, birds, insects and animals would have the freedom to be who God created them to be. This is the way it will be when Christ comes again and sets up His new Heavenly Kingdom. Now that I have this new understanding I will not be bringing any new species of pets into our home and will take perfect care of the ones I have.
Lord forgive me for all the times I was mean to my pets and neglected them. Forgive the human race for all the many sins that have been committed against all of your beautiful creation. For failing to protect it and respect it. For disrespecting You above all for abusing Your creation and destroying, in so many ways, the gift of creation You gave to us. Bring order where we have created disorder through our blindness and sin. Help every single person understand the devastation their sin causes and how far and wide these sins reach. Give every person the grace to choose the good, to choose life, and to choose love. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen
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