That’s what it is—the reason why our little terrier pup scared me by running off into the wild blue yonder after that rabbit. Downright ignored the red bell. And the shaking salami container.
Because Baker just had to.
Because that’s what dogs do.
They follow their nose.
That’s what drives us all, yes?
I suppose running after his big sister helped Baker feel supported in his boundary violation, being that Rose, a yellow lab, is three years older and fifty pounds heavier. What’s a little squirt to do but follow the fun of the older and seemingly wiser, weightier?
(Are we not much like dogs?)
Like there’s not enough fun on their own 44 acres of doggie paradise, given to them for free?
I have nothing more enticing to offer?
I guess I wasn’t thinking like a dog.
I guess I was thinking Baker would think something like this:
“Why, goodness gracious, Rose, my dear sister dog! That’s MOM frantically yelling at us in love, ringing that annoying red bell! We really, REALLY should WANT to stop chasing this fresh organic rabbit! We should really, REALLY want to turn around and head home! Like right NOW! On the double! Because Mom’s got cold, processed salami waiting for us, straight from the fridge!”
Resigned, I place the red bell back on the foyer buffet. Then I slap the lid on the salami container and shove it back in the fridge. There’s nothing I can do now but hope and wait until the dogs decide to come home on their own.
They are free to roam.
And they are free to come home . . .
I worry about the trouble they might encounter. Dogs with their nose on a scent don’t think about cars in the road to the east. I pray they stay safe and return soon. I pray that they WANT to return—to the one who loves and protects.
About an hour later, I see Rose and Baker, side-by-side, trotting through the front yard. There’s no evidence of a rabbit catch like last week when Baker came home with a fresh leg in his mouth. But Baker did manage to catch something else on his incredible instinctual journey.
Horrified at the sight of his matted fur, I cleared the kitchen island and placed him in the center to get a closer look. Apparently, he ran straight through a well-hidden Velcro factory in the ravine. I found him covered—and I mean COVERED—from nose to tail with the tiniest round super-sticky somethings I’ve ever seen. Some sort of burdock, I suppose. His freshly groomed coat that cost me forty dollars only a week before was now clumped and twisted into some freaky combination of a frosted punk-rock Mohawk and dark Jamaican dreadlocks.
He was noticeably miserable, trying to chew off the burdocks. Concerned he might cause himself to bleed with his frantic chewing, I called his groomer, Tracy, who agreed to take a look and lend me her grooming brush and comb.
So, I scooped up my Velcro-pup and drove him a couple miles up our country road. I carried him into the grooming room, set him on the table, and listened to Tracy laugh loudly while telling me she had never, EVER seen such a bad case of burdock infestation in her TWENTY years of dog grooming.
I’m feeling better now, thanks!
Then, she proceeded to tell me about a dog she knew who had ingested a burdock once. Punctured an artery. Bled out. Died.
Feeling MUCH better now, thanks!
(Picture me horrified within, trying to laugh and manage a smile! I imagine I looked sort of like a combination of pig snout and Great Horned Owl eyes.)
Tracy showed me how to remove each tiny, sticky demon from his coat. She told me clearing his coat would be a long process—that he’d probably be sore—that I might want to comfort him with half an aspirin and quite a few doggie treats.
Part of me thought, “If you would have just listened to me and stayed where you belong, you could have avoided all this distress. But NO! You had to go your own way, following your instincts, because you didn’t trust me and come back when I called you.”
But then, another part of me thought, “Poor Baker! You look miserable. I can see that you feel miserable! I’m so sorry you chose to go your own way! Look how you’re suffering! Let me help you, clean you, restore you!”
Which part of me is most Christ-like?
Our God is the God of LOVE and TRUTH.
We err when we emphasize one more than another, weighting LOVE more than TRUTH, weighting TRUTH more than LOVE.
Baker stood on the grooming table shaking, exposed, tail tucked tightly between his legs. I can relate with this prodigal pup. I have been in his place emotionally, relationally, spiritually.
I’m thankful Baker came home, even though he’s such a mess.
I’m thankful he’s just got a bad case of burdocks and not something worse.
I’m thankful, that though shaking, he lets me brush through his matted, twisted fur, smoothing him, restoring him.
I make him a promise.
Though he shakes with fear, I’ll comb him clean. I’ll gently pull out of all those nasty stick-ons as quickly and gently as I can. Because I love him. Because I want him to be restored, beautiful. To be free of all that doesn’t belong.
And so, I make good on my promise.
I scoop him up in my arms, that shaking prodigal pup. I kiss him on his wet, black button nose that goes where he doesn’t belong, tasting death, running wild.
I pick that prodigal pup up in my arms, careful not to hug too hard. Because what creature can endure the weight of such a large love? I wouldn’t want to press those sharp burdocks of his past—of his willful wanderings—into his tender skin. I want him to heal. I love him so.
And I even love the willful one who led him astray.
I want them both to come home. To know. To receive my open-armed love.
These two? Yes, they’ve been prodigal. But they are now home. By their own choosing.
I can see it in their eyes.
They know they’ve done wrong. They’re sorry.
Yet they stay. They stay where they know they are loved, no matter what.
How can I refuse to forgive, to love, to set free?
This is gospel. This is redemption and re-creation. This is transformation.
Only this . . .
The loving—the just—power of Christ—in us. As seen in dogs. In a ravine. In the depths. Chasing the flesh. In all God’s creation . . . hoping for a holy, human reaction . . .
This Jesus . . .
He stands waiting.
He stands wondering . . .
Will we come home?
He waits to rid us of every nuisance, every sharp barb we carry . . .
In body . . .
In mind . . .
Picking Baker up off the grooming table, I carry him to the car in my arms, grooming comb and brush I hand. And I begin to drive him home.
I think of myself.
I think of him, this precious pup.
I think of instinct.
That’s what it is with the both of us. That’s why we go off into our wild blue yonders seeking all we seek, paying no mind to the sticky demons that cling, leaving us in a matted, twisted, sorry state.
If only we would stay close to the One who knows and loves us best—who doesn’t want to squelch our joy of discovery and adventure—who wants only to keep us from the sorry we don’t see. If only we would believe.
Today, I ask once again for a humble, willing heart . . .
If only we all would want a willing spirit to curb our instincts that lead to pain in the end, no matter how delightful they seem in the beginning.
If only . . .
We would want . . .
The ONLY one who loves us completely . . .
Who longs to set us FREE.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.