God’s love and ‘Downward Dog’

"Downward Dog" promotional picture.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that God loves me, just as I am. That he’s not waiting for me to do something spectacular to deserve his love, but rather that right here, right now, with all my flaws and shortcomings, God loves me.

I got that reminder this week from a new television show, Downward Dog. On one level, it’s just a show is about the relationship between a young woman named Nan and her dog Martin. The construct of the show is clever because it is narrated by Martin, a dog like any other except for his ability to tell the audience exactly what he’s thinking.

You need to watch this trailer to begin to understand:

Oddly, the character on the show to whom I most relate is Martin. He is in this relationship with an imbalance of power. Sometimes he is ready to worship Nan, but other times he challenges her authority, questions her love for him, misunderstands her intentions, openly defies her, and wants to take credit for what she has done.

I understand that I tend to find deep meaning in stupid places (Exhibit A: Kimmy Schmidt), but that sounds suspiciously like my relationship with God. Is that just me? Maybe. But did you catch the very beginning of the trailer above? The first six words are, “In the beginning, there was Nan.” Sound familiar?

Not measuring up

In the most recent episode “The Full Package” (aired June 6, 2017), Martin wonders if he’s good enough.

After a few moments of feeling superior at the dog park—a place he calls a breeding ground for canine anti-intellectualism—Martin notices a dog that is different. Hunter catches Frisbees and does tricks with his human. This gets Martin thinking, “Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder what it would be like if I had it all, brains and brawn, the full package.”

When they return home, Martin tries to be more like Hunter. His attempts at being something he’s not are super funny. Mine probably would be too, if I were watching them on television.

Soon, Martin finds out he’s not the full package. He can’t do everything the athletic Hunter does.

At one point, he finds a way to blame Nan for his shortcomings. “Sometimes I feel like Nan is responsible for 99.100% of my problems,” he tells us. Been there… except I’m a little better at math.

In the end, Martin is reminded of Nan’s love for him because of something he does, but it’s not a new trick. When he has an accident on the rug at Hunter’s house, Hunter’s human instructs Nan to “correct” Martin. Nan refuses. Instead, she comforts him, defends him, and takes him home.

“Hunter’s this really impressive dog,” Martin confides to us, “and I’m kind of a mess. I get that. But today, honestly, I’m just really impressed with myself because I think I’ve finally let go of that desire to be impressive.”

Maybe you need to hear this today too. God is already in love with you. He doesn’t expect you to be just like whoever your Hunter is. He expects you to be you, your best you. He may not be in love with every mess you make on the rug, but he loves you, and if you’re willing, his grace will transform you so that you will have far fewer accidents. 

Thanks for the reminder Martin.

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