© 2011 David’s Harp and Pen
DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from overprotective pet owners who think I am in any way mistreating my dog. As long and hard as I’ve tried to understand Bruno’s complex relationship with shrubbery, I have always been at a loss. Besides, if running through the bushes keeps him out of the bars at night, then I won’t complain.
I have a large, hyperactive, over-bearing, extremely extroverted dog named Bruno. He is full of energy and does a good job of keeping me, his introverted, overly analytical momma, from getting too serious. Bruno loves his big backyard, which is overflowing with foliage. I like it that he enjoys running and frolicking outside, as it keeps him slim, trim, and svelte. However, some times his love of nature presents complications.
Last week, Bruno came in from the yard with an entirely new ecosystem growing behind his left ear. I got as best a look at it as I could, and it resembled a nest of pine needles. In fact, in the days that followed, I found the same kind of needle in various spots in his fur. Everywhere else he let me pluck them out, but not behind his ear. I was concerned, because it was obviously making him uncomfortable, and I was worried if I didn’t get it out that the area could become infected, not to mention that, coupled with all the other pine needles he walked in with on a daily basis, he was turning into Chia Dog. Every time I went near him with scissors, clippers, or the Furminator®, he got nervous and bucked his head.
I asked around for advice on what to do to extricate the ear sagebrush. Some said take him to the vet or the groomer. That was out, as it was too expensive at the time. Others said to give him doggy happy pills or Benadryl. That was out as well, as I didn’t want to administer drugs to him without knowing how he would react. Still others said that I should simply make him sit still and demand he obey me. I ask you, my dear blogees, how do I make dogs, or people for that matter, do things they don’t want to do? Apparently I am the only one on the planet without the ability to Jedi mind control the sentient beings around me, so instruction as to how to wield my Jedi powers in such a manner would be most helpful.
After a week of failed attempt after failed attempt to amputate the doggedly unyielding pine needle collection that had now taken up permanent residence on my dog, I had about given up on my mission. Then Saturday night, I crawled into bed to go to sleep, and Bruno hopped into bed with me. He was in the mood to spoon, and spoon we did. He snuggled his head into my side and went to town licking my hand. In a moment of divine inspiration, I went for the bird’s nest with my dry hand and gingerly plucked out a single pine needle. Bruno didn’t even flinch. I went for another single pine needle. Lightning struck twice. As long as Bruno was snuggling and licking my hand, I was able to remove the pine needles one by one, until they were all gone. As far as I could tell, Bruno never knew what hit him.
I learned a lot from that experience about my own pursuit of godliness. There is a lot of emphasis placed in the Church, most unintentional I think, on the big, one-time transformational experience. We talk about getting serious about God, dedicating our lives to Him, and being filled with the Holy Spirit as if they are one-shot events. Yes, some changes do happen overnight, and some miracles occur instantly, but I have found that the experience of becoming holy, maturing, and giving one’s life to God are more often gradual events that happen over the course of time. I honestly don’t think we could even physically stand it if God removed all our character flaws and grew us up all at once. The temptation would be too great on our part to take credit for it, and, just like the nine lepers did with Jesus, take off once the work was done, mistakenly thinking we don’t need God for anything else.
I recently re-read Galatians 5 and pondered the fact that those Christian virtues are referred to as fruit. Perhaps it is because they are things that develop gradually and are cultivated only over time and under close supervision of the Vine Dresser. As I’ve thought about Bruno’s de-Chia-petting and my own growth process in God, I am grateful that God is more concerned with lasting fruit than instantaneous fixes, and that as I draw near to Him in the safety of worship, He changes me to be a little bit more like Him, gradually, one pine needle at a time.