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A lesson from my dog

I’m a morning person. My alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. every day. Some days I turn it off and go back to sleep, but most days, I’m up. Emmy, my dog, likes the early morning as much as I do, probably because the first thing I do upon getting out of bed is to let her out to do her business and feed her. Our walkout basement empties into a small patio outside sliding glass doors. On one side of the patio we used to have a stake with Emmy’s leash tied to it. It’s a nice little area because it is covered by our elevated deck. The Colorado snow normally doesn’t gather much on the patio in the winter, and there is some shade from the incredible summer sunshine we get here (I think it’s due to the elevation. We are closer to the sun than most parts of the country).

Emmy's blank stare

Emmy and I have this routine down cold. She goes out and eats while I go up and start the coffee. When she’s ready to come in she barks, one bark; I guess even she knows it’s kinda early for the neighbors. One December morning a couple of years ago, I heard the bark, went downstairs, looked out our sliding glass door as per our agreement, and noticed that Emmy was on a short leash. This happens three to five times a week. Emmy goes away from the house on one side of one of the poles that holds up our elevated deck and tries to return to the house on the other side of the pole. I’ve explained to her the reason it doesn’t work many times. The logic seems to escape her.

This morning was particularly cold and I had forgotten my slippers upstairs in the bedroom. I had two choices: (1) go up and get my slippers while Emmy barked, risking waking my family and all of our neighbors, or (2) suck it up and get out there in my bare feet and bring her in. I chose option 2. It seemed safer. I opened the door and walked quickly out to Emmy. “Emmy, when are you going to learn?” I said to a blank stare and wagging tail, “You make this same mistake almost every day. You’d think after three years you would have figured this out by now” (there was a brief period where I thought she had, but it was either a coincidence or she later forgot and returned to old patterns). I bent over, unhooked her, and watched her run into the house. She must have been cold too.

Standing there in the cold, untangling the leash from the stake and that particular pole which she must have gone around 3 times, a strange theological thought occurred to me. There must be days when God thinks similarly of me. I can hear God saying, “Joe, when are you going to learn? We go through this almost every day. You can’t do that without getting tangled up. You would think after all this time you would have figured it out by now.”

That was a pretty depressing thought. I don’t like disappointing God. Later that same day as I was processing these events, depressed about being as dumb as my dog, I had this conversation with God:

God: Where were you when that thought occurred to you?
Joe: Standing on my patio in the freezing cold in my bare feet.
God: Why?
Joe: Because I had to go get the dog.
God: Why?
Joe: Because she barked to come in.
God: Why?
Joe: Because she was tangled and couldn’t get out of the mess she’d made.
God: And you think I wouldn’t do the same for you?

Sometimes I think God must want to give up on me, but then again I haven’t given up on Emmy. I keep hoping she’ll get it, and laughing when she does it again. Like Emmy tangled up around the pole, all you need to do is bark – one single, solitary call to God for help – and allow him to get you free. May today be that day for you!

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
(Psalm 40:1-2 NRSV, and basis for the lyrics to U2’s “40”)

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