I have a persistent, fluffy white shadow named Otto. His hundred-pound frame follows me from room to room, flopping with a satisfied groan at my feet when I pause for more than a moment.
He just loves to be near his people—and loves even more to be near our food. If he waits long enough and looks on mournfully enough, it usually works in his favor; soon he’s gobbling up tasty scraps of chicken or beef.
If it doesn’t happen? No matter, he’s there the next meal—undaunted and watchful in dogged hope.
I used to bristle at Christ’s words in today’s Gospel (Matthew 15:21-28) as He compares a beautiful, faith-filled woman to a dog.
Yet cultural understanding reveals that Christ is highlighting the attitude of the Jews at the time; they believed they had a sole claim to the Messiah and that Gentiles were nothing more than mangy dogs. Christ uses His exchange with the woman to dispel the Jewish onlookers’ lies and reinforce her true identity: not at all a dog, but a chosen daughter, privy to every good gift in Christ by virtue of her persistent, dogged faith.
I can learn much from this woman’s identity-rich faith and my pup’s unfaltering, expectant hope. When Christ leads me into a desert of suffering or the world calls into question my identity, too often I waver—wondering where He is or questioning who I really am.
Yet Christ reminds us today that He leads us into deserts not to abandon us, but to bring about restoration and abundant fruit through contrary suffering and seeming lack. He presses on the wound of worldly lies about identity to reveal the truth of who—and Whose—we are.
Whether we waver in hope or identity, when we muster even the tiniest act of faith, He rejoices in restoring in us all that has been made desolate, and rebuilding—again and again—what has been torn down.
Today, Christ challenges us to become undaunted in approaching Him—and cultivate expectant hunger for our Bread of Life (far greater than any scrap!) with ever more dogged faith.