We have three dogs at the moment. That’s one more than normal. Our mad Beagle and our Maltese X puppy have been joined by ‘Poppy’, who’s an exceptionally well-behaved chocolate Labrador. She’s staying with us for a fortnight while her owners (our friends from church) are away. We’re enjoying her! But before Poppy arrived, our friends gave us a few tips on getting along with her. They said, amongst other things, “Be careful of food envy. She’s a Labrador. Labradors are notorious for food envy.”

We’re being careful of food envy. We’re feeding them all separately, at separate times, and generally, it’s going well… except that we didn’t take ‘affection envy’ into account. Whenever any of us appear, all three of them jostle for our affection. They bury their noses into our hands and laps – wanting to be the first to get a pat, or to have their ears rubbed, or be shown love. If I tell Poppy she’s a good girl, the others gather around, wanting to be good girls also. If I sit down at my desk to work, they all want to sleep on my feet. If I pick up the puppy, the other two want to leap into my arms as well. Usually, that’s slightly too far to leap!

But it’s made me think about our wiring. Am I like that? Do I want to be the most-loved friend, or the most-cherished family member? Do I fear that I’m missing out? Do I want to receive the most praise, or the most back rubs? Do I wangle my way around until I do? Maybe.

At church this month, we’ve been reading Ephesians and it’s been helpful. In chapter three, the apostle Paul prays for all the believers. He prays that Christ might dwell in our hearts – that we might know how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ… and in knowing that love, that we might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. It’s an incredible prayer! If only we could know that love! And Paul prays it because he knows how desperately we need to know and receive God’s love. He also knows that in receiving God’s love, we will be able to somehow love the people around us, even on the days when we’re feeling needy, or tempted to envy their dinner bowls, or their back scratches. Even on those days, we can live kind, generous, compassionate lives… because we know we’ve been utterly loved by God – generously, undeservedly, eternally.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)