I love my dogs.
I also hate them.
They have a tendency to bring out the worst in me. Things can be going along just fine and then Chloe (the red head) will do something I don’t want her to do and my day is suddenly soured. I go from peaceful and calm to angry and enraged, shouting for her to put that down, stop doing that, quiet down, sit, stay, shut up.
I take a prayer walk in the early mornings and I take Chloe and Miles with me. It’s a struggle at times to pray with them beside me, sometimes wrestling each other for the best spot, sometimes veering off the path at the whiff of some game or garbage, sometimes barking at ghosts, or doing any number of other things that interrupt my planned period of dialog with God. I get frustrated with them and yell, trusting that God can sort out my requests of Him from my rants towards them.
Yes, it’s ironic to be in the midst of crying out to God to be made a vessel of His mercy while telling my dogs to shut up.
But not just ironic. It’s illuminating.
What I’ve been learning lately is that God is faithful to use everything – EVERYTHING – for the purpose of making His children holy. It’s not an accident that my dogs make me crazy. It’s not an accident that they frustrate my prayer time. All of it is used by God to illuminate what is still left of my flesh that needs to die. My dogs reveal that there is still a lot.
And so it is that, by God’s grace, I’ve been more aware of these feelings of rage and why they arise. It’s not my dog’s fault. Rather, my anger towards them is a symptom of my selfishness. When they cross my will and I get upset I am saying in my words and deeds that my desires and needs are the most important. I am saying that I am the center of my world and woe, or woof, to anyone who interferes with that fantasy.
A better way, a more holy way, is to humble myself and choose in those moments to serve rather than be served. Rather than blow up at my dogs for crossing my will I’m praying for the strength and grace to serve them and meet them in their need. Yes, I know that sounds crazy. Serve my dogs? Aren’t I their Master?
But this is exactly what Jesus is calling me to do – to lay down my life for others, canine or otherwise. By serving my dogs as an act of obedience towards God, my Master, I relinquish the control I think I have to Him.
And so it is that my dogs are making me more holy. God is using everything, so it seems, to reveal what is inside my heart and what He has yet to lay hold of.
He’s using my dogs for his purposes in my life for this season. What “dog” is presently in your life, driving you crazy? It’s possible God is trying to get your attention.