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An Abundance of Oreo

In the words of the hilarious Leslie Jordan, I’ve been “hunkering down” throughout this time of social distancing at my parents’ house near Hickory, North Carolina.  Along with my parents and sister, one of my housemates during this time has been my parents’ eight-month-old, 50-pound, Standard Poodle puppy, Oreo.

She’s infuriating. She constantly annoys my aging dog, Gracie. She has no concept of just how large her lanky and awkward puppy body is. She barks at anything and everything that moves, and she even thought my Bible would be a tasty snack a few nights ago, her teeth puncturing the pages of Genesis and Revelation.

Have I mentioned yet that she drives me nuts?  If I’m being honest with myself, though, I think at least part of the reason that she bothers me is because I’m jealous of her.  Oreo eats when she wants, sleeps when she wants, plays when she wants, and finds so much delight in daily walks.  She has no concept of pandemics or stay-at-home orders, doesn’t worry about her loved ones getting sick or how this virus is disproportinately taking the lives of people of color.  She lives in the present moment, has her wants and needs supplied, and greets each new morning with joyful exuberance.  I’d like some of that right about now.

In many Christian traditions, today is Good Shepherd Sunday, the day of the church year dedicated to contemplating what it means that Christ is our Good Shepherd.  As I read the scripture for this week (John 10:1-10) I found myself thinking about Oreo, not because she sometimes frolics like a little lamb, but because she knows something about abundant life.  

The pinnacle of this scripture is verse 10 in which Jesus says that he came to earth so that all may have life and have it abundantly.  I find great comfort in this verse, but it has also really frustrated me this past week because life doesn’t feel abundant right now.  Every time I venture out to the grocery store, I’m reminded of the culture of scarcity we live in as I glimpse the empty toilet paper shelves.  Every time I sit down to eat another turkey sandwich for what feels like the 100th time in two months, I long to be sitting around a table filled with friends, feasting at one of our favorite restaurants.  Every time I hop on Zoom with dear students or colleagues, I long to be gathered with them in Irazu or the Truitt Center.

I think there’s a chance though, that this life of conserving our resources, turkey sandwiches, and Zoom meetings, is in fact, abundant life.  We’re taking these very measures, of course, so that others in our communities, particularly the most vulnerable, can have life, and have it abundantly.  To be certain, abundance looks different in this season.  It looks like acknowledging our grief and losses and living simply.  

And though it hurts my pride to admit it, perhaps Oreo has something to teach us about abundance in this moment.  Something to teach us about paying attention to the sound of the birds.  Something to teach us about finding joy in moving our bodies.  Something to teach us about viewing every moment as an opportunity for play and connection.  I hope you’ll join me in attempting to take her lead this week.

Julie Tonnesen is the Campus Minister for LEAF (Lutherans, Episcopalians, and friends), is the co-advisor for the Interfaith LLC, and works with Protestant Life at Elon. She is also a 2014 graduate of Elon, and earned her M.Div. from Duke Divinity School in May 2019. Julie serves as Vicar (intern) at Macedonia Lutheran Church in Burlington, NC. and is a candidate for ordination in the Lutheran church (ELCA). Julie loves supporting students, reading, and spending time outside with her dog, Gracie.

Contact: jtonnesen@elon.edu

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