Trying to make the crooked straight? You will fail

Two corgis who belonged to the Queen, Sandy and Muick, watched her funeral procession and reduced our dog-loving nation to tears.

Since the Queen’s death, sales of corgis have gone up. The Kennel Club reports a 30-year high for the registration of the breed. I expect a few more breeders will seek to cash in on the craze, as puppies can sell for around £6,000. So if you want a puppy for Christmas, perhaps another breed might be better. Remembering the seasonal refrain, a dog is for life and not just for Christmas. Corgis are still not as popular as the UK’s favourite breed, which is, of course, a Labrador. I admit it – I am a besotted Labrador owner.

We are a nation of animal lovers. During the lockdown, an estimated 3.2 million households acquired a pet. Many of those were first-time dog owners. Dogs provide a source of companionship, and research has shown that dogs can help calm individuals in times of stress. The emotional bonds people have with their pets are powerful. The spectrum of dog ownership ranges between those who end up abandoning them to those who incorporate them into their families like children. A few years back, dog owners referred to themselves as ‘master’ or ‘mistress’; now, people call themselves ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’.

All of this puts significant pressure on the veterinary profession. Being a vet is one of those imagined dream jobs. It is not easy. To become a vet, you need to be very high achieving and study for six years. Yet on arrival at a local practice, the actual work is often mundane or very sad. Not all animals can be fixed, and it is hard to regularly euthanise pets and deal with the grief of their owners – as a friend of mine will testify.

A working day can bring the emotional rollercoaster of family joy with a new puppy one moment to another’s heart-rending grief the next. Even the healthiest animals do not live very long. Death is a reality. It is hard not being able to fix things.

It is not surprising that depression among vets is common. The suicide rate among vets is four times the national average. One study in Australia found that 70% of vets had lost a colleague to suicide. There is now work by mental health practitioners trying to support those working in veterinary practice. It is hard working in a field dealing with others’ grief and your own inability to reverse decay.

Many of us experience this impotence. As Christians, we will burn out if we try to solve all the crookedness of life around us. Ecclesiastes has a great message for us.

The book of Ecclesiastes says that we cannot make the crooked straight. We live in a groaning creation, and we cannot redeem it. When we imagine that we can fix everything, solve everything, and heal everything, we seek to make the crooked straight. We will fail. We are finite; we are limited. For every disease we cure, another comes along. This hard truth does not need to destroy us. Understanding our limits is the beginning of understanding our need for God. Understanding death points us to our need for a rescuer. Indeed the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.

This Christmas, as we remember again the coming of the Lord, lets us consider what it means that it was He who came to make the crooked straight and the rough ways smooth. The Preacher encourages us to use our time well and do what we can, but know we are not God. And if you happen to visit your local vet, look for a way to encourage them and an opportunity to share the gospel hope – they get a lot of hassle!

(First published in Evangelicals Now in December 2022)

© 2023 Karen Soole