I love animals, especially dogs. My favorite part of the day is greeting time. Regardless of all other circumstances, they are always happy and excited to see me, it is impossible not to share in their joy. Every morning I look forward to waking them up and opening the door for the morning relief. So much so that I fix my coffee first and get set to go outside with them to watch them excitedly, romp around the yard. Yesterday things were going great on the usual romp, until, they saw something in the woods. I questioned who would appear, a Bad dog or Good dog.
When the door flies open in the morn it is always entertaining to watch Deacon and Winnie fight to see who makes it out the door first. They both sprint as fast as possible and head to the huge maple where daily reside the squirrels stealing seeds from the bird feeder. Like clockwork, the squirrels hear the door click and take off running. The kids chase them to the trunk of the maple and 100% of the time, the squirrels make their way up the tree easily escaping. I chuckle the same way each time with a no-harm no-foul response.
But on this day, there was an extra treat. Deer. The kids sprinted off the woods and I yelled NO. Winnie instinctively slammed on the brakes and looked at me with an uh-oh expression. But not Deacon. Using the excuse of being unable to stop his 140 pounds at once and not hearing, due to the black fur covering his ears, he kept on sprinting. Winnie decided, if he gets to go, so do I. She turned away and went to catch her partner in crime.
I watched helplessly as the two bad dogs ran after the deer. My mood changed from panic to a feeling of awe as the deer backtracked and were no less than 10 feet away from my standing position on the driveway. All eight of them ran by one at a time looking at me cautiously as their choice of running from two crazy dogs versus seeing one old guy holding a coffee mug seemed like the right one. I stopped to enjoy the beauty of the white tails pass before my eyes. (Yes, I am a tree hugger, no thoughts of wishing I had a shot-gun to fill the freezer with venison crossed my mind for a second)
I called for the bad dogs to return. Seeing no response, I headed into the woods in hopes of intercepting them before they discovered the deer had backtracked and were far-gone for them to be chased. I walked for several minutes calmly calling out their names awaiting their return.
As I moved further into the woods, I slashed into a thorn-bush, which snagged my arm. My temperament was shifting quickly as I carefully pulled the thorns out of my bleeding skin. The calm calling out of the names ‘Deacon, Winnie’ was increasing in volume. I worried of waking the neighbors. As a few minutes passed, I worried of them going too far and finding the roadway with rush hour traffic. I called their names even louder. I worried further about the crazy neighbor who lived deeper in the woods that he would mistake my dogs for coyotes and blast them with his double barrel. I shouted louder with a bit more emphasis.
The dogs were gone. I opted to turn around and head back to the house. My coffee mug was empty and needed a refill. Anxiety was quickly turning to anger (doesn’t it for everyone, or is that an exclusive for this Average Joe?) as I picked up the pace thinking I would need to grab the car and go search for them. I continued shouting their names as I headed back. I reached the front porch and still no bad dogs had returned. I stepped in to grab a coffee refill and the car keys. I fretted how two stupid dogs, that never listen, ruined a perfect morning and my hot java.
I headed back out, pulled together my mind, and decided to walk a ways again. I shouted Winnie’s name, as she is mostly the good dog. From a distance, I saw her running back home. She looked and saw me. I could see her catch a glimpse of me and her tail movement switched from worry-mode to excitement. She started wagging the tail and picked up speed to come to her master. I yelled a pleasant ‘Winnnnieee’, she picked up the pace seeing that I was happy, the happy relief you get when you know all is ok.
Then the reality of the matter returned to my mind as I thought about the dogs not listening to me. I thought about the scratch on my arm and what an idiot the neighbors probably were thinking about me. Only two days ago, I was the numskull bad horse owner that had allowed my bad horses to break a fence (again) and roam through the neighborhood. The same horses that snuck into the garage and turned over a whole bucket of bird seed.
I yelled out, ‘WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, bad dog?’ Suddenly Winnie’s excitement to see me turned to an uh-oh, I am in trouble look. Her tail went between the legs, shoulders slumped, and the pace to return slowed dramatically. I stood with my hands on hips and waited for her to reach my feet. She stopped twenty feet away with her head down. I said, ‘come over here’. She slowly walked over in a slumping fashion and penitently came to my feet and rolled over on her back.
My heart changed as I saw how she was truly sorry. She licked me profusely asking for forgiveness. I could tell she wanted to say, ‘if it wasn’t for Deacon I wouldn’t have run’. I gave her a big hug and said ‘ok, you’re not a bad dog’. (I know my wife is puking as she reads this, princess Wynifred has a special place in this heart) Her countenance changed and she was back to the good dog, a little hesitant, but all seemed normal again.
But where the heck was Deacon? I shouted out for Deacon to ‘come home’. I knew he could not be too far away as he always took his time coming back a few minutes later than she does. At a distance, he saw me and seemed to know instinctively he was in trouble. Instead of turning up the driveway as Winnie did, he decided to take the outer route to get back to the porch. I yelled, ‘you had better get back here, now!’ No chance, he seemed to say, and continued to trot with his huge furry paws in the other direction.
I looked down to see that Winnie had changed from happy back to cowering again. I tried to convince her I was not mad at her. But this time she knew I was too far gone to be won over with a wag and lick on the cheek.
I rewound in my mind the ‘Dog Whisperer’ episodes and dog psychology books, most of which state a dog does not know the difference between wrong and right, but responds to what we have trained them to do. Moreover it is difficult to train them what NOT to do, thus barriers, fences and electric fences come in to play. It would be of no benefit to beat the dogs for their misdeeds, or to yell, explain their wrong-ness, toss them in a kennel, withhold food, or offer any form of punishment.
When I reached the portico Deacon was sitting by the door, oblivious to having done anything wrong. As I had enough time to calm down he showed no signs of remorse whatsoever. Winnie had quickly forgotten that she had been scolded and that I was totally ticked off at Deacon, all was restored in the master to dog relationship. It was especially renewed when I broke out the bag of dog food for feeding time a minute later (I had a conference call due in minutes and had to put behind the runaway incident).
I had to get philosophical over the matter as I observed – all is well with the dog to person relationship provided the dog leader is in control of himself or herself. Whether they have done exactly what we want them to do or the exact opposite, a dog will react based on how we respond to them. If I am happy and excited they are happy and excited, if I am calm and at peace, they are calm and secure. Likewise if I am upset they respond in an upset manner, sometimes running away in fear or cowering in defeated submission.
We people are much more complex in how we respond and feel around one another. We long for the approval of family, friends, work-place ‘masters’, and how society decides we should be. When things are seemingly going well and everyone around is pleased we are happy and pleased and easy to get along with. When we are wronged or have done wrong, we respond like a bad dog, either barking or biting back. Even when we have done the seemingly right thing, we often respond based on whether they were pleased or displeased with our activity or actions.
We long to hear the words good boy or good girl, and cringe at the mere mention of anything bad. Our insecurities and anxieties cause us to look at ourselves based on how others view us. If merely looking at a reflection based on what others think or we perceive they think, it is easy to feel like a cowering dog, sometimes feeling confused, even if we have done the right things.
Maybe it would be easier if we were dogs and there were only two phrases to deal with; simply Bad dog, Good dog.
There has to be a better way to see ourselves, years of looking for my own identity has led me to a new perspective, perhaps you dare see another view, but only if you enter the Portico…
Bad God, Good God.
Dare I discuss the possibility of a ‘bad’ God? Or maybe at least some can fathom a ‘mad’ God. The atheist would have no difficulty grasping the concept of a bad God and those who see and hear nothing in the world but suffering may feel that God must really be ticked off. Is He?
Famed author of 30 novels with over 10 million books sold, Ted Dekker, recently released a new book titled The Forgotten Way. As I was reading the first few pages I felt as if I was reading from my own web-page, the first page title is ‘Before You Enter’. A few pages in Dekker states: “Just like you, I’m prone to struggle because life happens in cycles of ease and challenge, highs and lows, remembering and forgetting often in the space of as single day or hour. All that is written is more for me than for any other.”
Further on he describes the life that a person trying to be Christ-like is ‘on a living and breathing journey’:
- The journey from hate to love
- The journey from fear to faith
- The journey from insecurity to rest and peace
- The journey from crawling to flying
Dekker like me, and perhaps like you talks about the struggles that too often are swept under the carpet from the church pulpit and instead points a condemning finger at a world filled with bad dogs. To the outsider looking in, they sees a church ready to judge. But who are the judges they say; hypocrites who set up rules they themselves secretly struggle with. Some revert to what are considered the darkest of sins and scream at the sinners to repent of their perverted and murderous ways.
Meanwhile, those who say they believe in Jesus as Dekker continues ‘are anxious for tomorrow and cringe with fear in the face of the storm. We think and say we love our neighbor and enemies, but we court jealousy of those who have what we want, and we secretly despise those who attack us. We are Christians with various emphases in doctrines, yet in our daily lives we seem to be the same, often stumbling in darkness and feeling lost and judging with anger, not only ourselves but all those around us.”
That all resonated with me from my PAST thinking. And my view was God is a good God, but He also can be a mad God when we run away and disobey (like my dogs did). Whether it was at Adam and Eve breaking the one and only rule He gave them, or punishing the infidels and immoral ones of Sodom and Gomorrah. My upbringing was an in and out relationship with God, do the right thing and you make him happy and all is well. Do the wrong thing and earn his wrath and your life remains hell until you crawl back on your knees to show grievance for going the wrong way.
Who wants a life like that, just like a dog stuck in a bad dog, good dog up and down relationship? So the really good born-again Christian goes to church often, prays, tithes, serves, reads his Bible daily and all puts him in favor with God. Sure, you’ll stumble once in a while, but just repent or confess your bad deeds, and make sure you cower and really show your remorse, and God’s grace kicks in and all will be well again. Now get back to that tithing and serving and do not do ‘it’ again.
I came to conclusion a long time ago;
The reflection of how we think God sees us, controls our whole identity.
Like my dogs, when they think I am happy, they are happy, and they help make me happy when I return from a long trip and they sprint out to greet me as happy as can be. But man, when I am mad, they cower and run and hide. The perspective would hold true than, that if I mess up, than because I feel rotten, God must be mad at me as well, and vice versa. No? No, really, No!
Dekker shares what he called a deeper awakening, one I share and am learning to grasp, more each day. In the midst of deep reflection, actually after tasting much success after years of struggle an awakening set of questions penetrated Dekker’s mind;
- “Does your Father (God) not love you with the same love that He asks you to love others?” “What is love?”
- Dekkers reply ‘I knew of course. Love was a staggering concept that held no record of wrong and was kind in the face of cruelty. When the evil man attacked, love turned the other cheek without offering blame or grievance. This is the love no one knows (very well) – the same love Jesus talked about often. I had never thought to ask myself if God loved me in the same way He asks me to love others.“
As I reflected on Dekker’s thought and remembered how my dogs quickly changed when they saw my mood change, a smile crossed over my face. I was filled with peace knowing that if God and His son Jesus (yes a hard to understand concept, study up and you’ll get it) taught on the importance of loving people unconditionally and turning the other cheek, would He, not be the same way towards me? YES, He would and does.
Once a person is in the family of God (I go into greater detail on that ‘entry point’ in the About section) all is anew with God. He practices what He preaches towards His children.
Our identity should be one of full security in our walk with Him.
When you have a God who we see for His love and goodness it changes the receiver. Our view of Him becomes one where we know He sees you and I just as my dogs do when I open the door in the morning. He is excited to spend time with me. It is what you and I were created for, to have an intimate close relationship with Him.
God’s intention is for us to be in a constant state of union with Him, He never leaves. We may run away for a while by our own choice, but God sits with open arms waiting for our un-forced return. While it may be beneficial for our own sake to cower for a while, from God’s perspective it is at most, a temporary state. There is no Bad dog-Good dog, up and down relationship, at least when you follow a God and Father who is always good and IS what He says He is, a loving and forgiving God.
Some may shout ‘heretic’ at the mention that God is not concerned with our shortcomings and sins. The Apostle Paul, a man who was the most educated of Jewish scholars and also a murderer wrote many letters discussing the topic. Certainly God is concerned, so much so that He gave up His only Son to deal with it. But for the believer, the restoration has already taken place.
As I am oft scolded for writing mini-stories that are too long, I will point you to read and re-read chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Romans, especially clear in The Message version. Just one portion (3:21-24) But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
I am open to debate as Paul and many thereafter have been. I believe God is trying to right a ship that has gone astray in this day, and much of it is because of religious leaders filled with guilt that portray God as an ogre ready to judge. This has changed the perception from the view of His true followers. But if God is truly a good and loving God as we say He is, then for those who believe, should we feel like a Bad Dog? Or from His eyes should we confidently feel like a ‘Good’ (Dog), for us – His Sons and Daughters?
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