Most people I know will agree, dog hairs in one’s soup is disgusting. For this reason, when my wife and I went looking for a puppy, we wanted a small dog with short hair that would not shed. Because we were on a low budget, we could only take the seller’s word for it that the cute, fuzzy, black puppy would have short hair. Of course we also wanted one that fit the size of the adult mobile home community standards of under fifteen pounds. We also wanted one that would be friendly, cuddly, easy to train, and would only bark between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Outside of those parameters it is verboten. Park rules. And he would always eat when it was time to eat, never mess on the carpet, and so on and so forth.
When I first saw Tucker waddling across the floor, the runt of the litter, black with white and brown markings instead of the white with black markings like the rest of the litter, my heart melted. He was the one. He was going to meet all of my expectations.
Things have not turned out as I planned. He barks at cars. He barks at trucks. He barks especially at USPS, UPS, and FedEx vans, especially vans. Garbage trucks, strangers, neighbors, adults, children. He does not bark late at night; I give him that. This is because he knows I will bark at him if he does. But his clock is off sometimes and he forgets and barks before 9:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m.
He is a very lovable and attentive pet when I give him treats. He is a great alarm clock. If I am not up by 7:00 a.m. to feed him, no matter when I went to bed the night before or when I want to get up for that matter, I hear him coming down the hall, rattling the dog tags on his collar. If my arm happens to be over the side of the bed, his cold wet nose is an affective tool to get my eyes open.
He is stubborn and strong willed. He is constantly on me to play with him, give him attention, take him for a walk, and feed him. He hates football. When football season arrives, his seat of choice is in the master bedroom at the other end of the house. He hates loud noises of any kind, especially football. I have a loud voice and, at times can be exuberant. When I am, I find him hiding in the master bedroom.
He will let me give him his shower, grudgingly. He will let me file his claws weekly (they grow fast). But he lets me know I am abusing him in doing so. But he tolerates it for a treat.
Oh yes. Did I mention he sheds? No, I do not have to take him to the groomers. He just sheds. A lot. All the time. I recently learned that if I give him regular showers in the master-bath shower, there is not as much hair in my soup or anywhere else in the house, only down the shower drain. But that is another matter.
So what is my point? Why do I keep such an animal around? Because I love him. He and I have bonded. When I am away for any length of the time, the neighbors know that I have arrived home when they hear him screeching. One neighbor asked me what I was doing to that dog. She spoke with a countenance as if she might call PETA.
Why do we accept imperfections and disappointments with our pets but not our brothers and sisters in Christ, our family members, our spouses? After years of studying to be a pastor, the quarrels and conflicts in the church, the hours of marriage and family counseling, the broken relationships and broken marriages, I felt inadequate to the task of managing conflicts. For this reason I began a course of study in conflict management.
I passed my classes receiving honors. I took additional seminars and workshops on conflict management. I became a certified mediator in dispute resolutions. Why is it so hard to bring people to yes, divorced parents to a workable parenting plan for raising their children, to married couples to building functional family units?
Selfishness, Self-centeredness, Greed.
Believers are not much better than non-believers. If the world were to be saved on the basis of the testimony of Christians, many would be hard pressed to know why they should accept our God.
James expressed it this way:
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures[i]
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma...trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.[ii]
There are many more texts I could quote but in these two we find both the cause and the remedy.
First the cause, wrongful desires boiling up from within us. Notice that James is not using hyperbole here. We desire wrong things or right things with wrong motives. When we bow before God in prayer, our motives are wrong. We are putting our own desires ahead of concern for others.
Second the remedy, we forget who we are in God’s eyes. We forget His love for us and His willingness to put us above all earthly and heavenly pleasures even to the point being crucified for us. We forget that His purpose for creating us in the first place was to have fellowship with a people after His own heart who seek to please Him rather than self. The remedy is remembering what Christ did for us and His continued love and care for us even when we disappoint Him.
I have learned that having a dog means that I have to care for him, even when he seems to care little for me unless I meet his expectations. He has trained me well to make allowances for his shortcomings. To feed him on time. To groom him. To watch him turn away when I feel I need affection. In fact, most of the time I sense it is all about him. But that is Ok with me. I still love him.
[i] James 4:1-3
[ii] Eph 4:31-5:2, 10.