is a fool who reverts to his folly. (Proverbs 26:11)
Last night, I was part of a strange standoff. It started long after dark, when I awoke to the sound of my smaller dog vomiting. Onto the bedroom rug. Now, Pippin is a very sweet dog under most circumstances. He likes to play fetch, sit on your lap, snuggle, and romp with his “brother.” But he becomes hostile and borderline-aggressive if someone tries to clean up his vomit. And so, around two in the morning, I found myself facing down twenty pounds of immovable animal, while my larger dog whimpered in distress at the showdown. When coaxing failed and the direct approach elicited only hostility, I resorted to strategy: the dog biscuit that could lure Pippin into another room while I did the dirty work. End of story (and maybe you are wishing I had not told this one in such a public venue).
The thing is, I can go up to Pippin any day of the week and take away his toy, his bone, or his treasure without a second thought. He will be sweet and gracious about sharing his good things. It’s only the thing that is of no use, the thing that is actively disgusting, that elicits his protective instinct. He won’t let people get near the thing he himself is trying to discard.
How often, I wonder, am I like that? I can take criticism much better when it is aimed at strengthening something in me that brings me pride than I can when it is aimed at helping me overcome the very thing of which I, myself, am ashamed. I cling to my weaknesses, my sin, my injuries — even as I beg God to heal them, cure them, take them away. It’s as if, because they have marked me deeply, I have come to believe that they are integral to who I am, even when they are what I wish not to be.
But God does not define us by our failures. In God’s eyes, we are already whole, restored, and beautiful. God stands in the square, calling to us, calling us into the healing he has already granted, willing us to become in our own sight the people we already are in God’s eyes. Willing us to exchange our shame for his grace, our sorrow for his joy, our death for his life.
It’s strange, isn’t it, how difficult it can be to say yes?
Only you, Deborah, could weave spiritual teachings from a barfing dog!
But how true this is!
And I would so like to get rid of my own “barfing”…even if God loves me so. My questions are always how to do that.