I have a colleague who loves animals. She will do anything to help them, and frequently does. Recently, she asked me to pray for a stray dog. She sent me some photos of a beautiful dog that was living around a construction site, eating out of trash cans, and sleeping in a cemetery. She and some others had determined to catch the dog.
Try as they might, the dog eluded them. They put out a large trap and baited it with chicken. They tried water, tuna fish, and other assorted ideas. Nothing worked. So they went an additional step and brought in a “dog whisperer.” A whisperer is someone who has the knack of communicating with animals. This individual is actually a dog behaviorist, has studied dogs, and apparently knows their language. My friend sent me a video of the person at work.
What did he do? Barked like a dog. Literally. Series of barks, yips, and howls. What did the actual dog do? Answered back. Barked. Yipped. And howled. It was fascinating. The “conversation” started across a field. Little by little the dog came closer, always keeping in conversation with the person. He got the dog within 10 feet, but the dog got spooked and ran away. So close.
That dog got me to thinking of how many people are like that. We live in a way that we think is free, but it really isn’t. We’re hungry, cold, in need of comfort, and Someone calls our name, impresses our heart, but we don’t respond. We often come close, but we run back into the wilderness.
The Bible has several references to lost things or people. If I asked you to list them, you could easily rattle them off—coins, sons, sheep. Jesus declared to Zacchaeus His mission when he said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).*
In Matthew 9:36, Jesus looks over the crowd, and “He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” People, like the lost dog, wandering when help was at hand. John 10 focuses on Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Jesus calls the sheep by name, and the sheep recognize His voice.
When Jesus left His disciples for the last time, He told them He was not leaving them alone. He was leaving them with a Comforter. Someone who knows your name, and speaks to your heart. Just as the whisperer seemed to know how to speak the language of the dog, the Holy Spirit knows our language—the exact words that will call to us, to comfort, to soothe, to speak in ways we understand.
My mom died about a year and a half ago. It was completely unexpected. She had a runny nose on Wednesday, went to the emergency room on Thursday to be checked, and was in intensive care by Friday. In this rapid descent, a doctor told me there was a special breathing device that if she would consent to it, might make a difference. My mother was extremely claustrophobic. I knew she hated this contraption, but I wanted her to live. I got down in her face, and without telling her what dire straits she was in, asked her to wear it. She agreed. Soon after that she went into a comalike state.
About 11:00 on Sabbath morning, she began to awaken and started pulling at that mask. We kept telling her to stop. I could see from her eyes that she was really unhappy. But I knew the mask was helping. It was why she was conscious again. Take the mask off, and she would die. Leave it on, and she at least had a chance. I didn’t want to make this life-and-death decision. So I decided that she herself should make the decision. My husband and I and our daughters tried everything to help understand her wishes. We asked her all kinds of questions. We took turns since they wouldn’t let more than two people in the room. Raise your hand. Touch this. Blink your eyes. Nothing she did was clear. It was impossible to communicate.
Finally, about 1:00 p.m., the doctor came to talk with me. The doctor said the mask was working, but wouldn’t advise me whether we should continue. I was so torn. I did not want to make the decision that would cause my mother to die if she had the chance to live. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw someone walking swiftly toward us, but they walked around the doctor and me, without a greeting, going straight to my mother’s bed. It was our pastor. He’d come straight from church. He got down into my mother’s face, stroked her hair, and asked, “Marilyn, do you want to see Jesus?” And she nodded vigorously. There was no mistake to the answer. We couldn’t believe it! We had exhausted ourselves trying to communicate, and with one question he had the answer. I immediately gave the order to remove the mask. We had 45 minutes with my mom, moments we all treasure, before she lapsed into a coma that she never came out of.
Our pastor spoke her language. He was able to come in and whisper straight to her heart when we could not. And I know there is also One who will eventually call my mother’s name, and she will answer, for she knows His voice.
I work in an office that communicates with people about Jesus. In this digital age, we have multiple platforms to use. We print magazines. We run websites. We post on social media. We manage a video platform. We create podcasts. And each method works for someone—those who like words, who learn visually, or who prefer audio.
We’re also always trying to improve ourselves. We run all kinds of analytics to see what works so we can do more of that and less of what doesn’t get through. But there’s one analytic we can’t run, and that’s the Holy Spirit—the Whisperer, the One who speaks to the human heart in ways we cannot. He is always here. Always impressing hearts in ways we cannot imagine. Is He calling your name today? Listen carefully. He’s speaking your language.
Merle Poirier is operations manager for Adventist Review Ministries.
*Bible texts are from the New King James Version. Copyright ã 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.