I've thought for sometime that the phrase "It's a dogs life!" makes little sense in our culture. As far as I can see there are few people as pampered as the average pooch.
When I consider the life of our aging labrador there's no getting away from the fact that he seems blissfully content. Most of the time he snoozes quietly to himself. His main bursts of activity occur in his sleep! As he dreams of chasing rabbits round sunny hills, with the result that he legs move with a speed and alacrity rarely seen when he is conscious.
He is always ridiculously happy to see me. To be fair, he's pretty happy to see anyone, greeting them as long lost friends, with clear joy and a determined desire to shed hair on their trousers. He loves the simple things in life: a country walk, two meals a day, having his tummy scratched (two of which I like, the last would be a little weird I think...).
He gets on uncomplainingly with his arthritis. When his back legs give way, he steadies himself and plods on. When he's feeling up to it he still takes a running leap into the pond and exits with a renewed vigour, which only the muddy waters of the Winey Hill bomb crater can miraculously provide.
I rather fancy the dogs life. And the Bible says that I might as well have it if there's no God. The writer to Ecclesiastes reflects:
Ecclesiastes 3:18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
No God and we're no better off than the dog. That's the logic that God has sown into creation. The logic that death teaches us. Without God we're just animals. We breathe. They breathe. We die. They die. We are made up of physical matter. They are made up of the same matter, just organised is a slightly different way. I expect Richard Dawkins, the renowned biologist and atheist, would be surprised to know how much the Bible agrees with him!
And if we're just animals who knows if there's a heaven for dogs and no heaven for humans? Maybe all those little pet cemeteries with inscriptions about how Rover is now in a better place have it right? But maybe they don't.....
Because the point of Ecclesiastes is to show us that life does have meaning because there is a God. As it says earlier in the same chapter:
"11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart..."
I'm pretty sure that Jasper has no concept of eternity and no longing for a better life. But we do. People just can't stop themselves asking: "Is this it?" And the great news is that it isn't. That because we are uniquely created in the image of God, we are uniquely able to enjoy relationship with him; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A relationship that the resurrection of Jesus has proven will go through death and into a perfect new world forever.
The reason that dog is so content is that he doesn't grasp the reality of his circumstances. He doesn't sense his mortality, because he was not created for eternity. But we do, because we are. And long after he has ceased to exist, I will be rejoicing in the eternal love of God in a perfect New Creation, basking not in the sun, but in the glorious warmth and light that pours forth from the face of Jesus.
That's God's life for me. Forever.