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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Other Dogs' Droppings: Grace in Disguise

Hi Readers!

I felt led of the Lord to share a chapter today from my book of essays, Unleashed: Reflections of a Dog Walker.  It seems to me there are two responses we can have when we come in contact with a person who is paying the price for someone else's actions. We can turn a blind eye ("It's not my problem"), or we can step in and help ("I didn't make this mess, but neither did the innocent victims being affected by someone else's actions, so how can I bless those victims?"). 

Also, we have to decide how to respond when we meet someone who is paying a steep price for his own misdeeds. Lately, I'm having occasion to minister to various people whose choices have gotten them into more trouble than seems warranted. In these instances, I have the option to be judgmental ("You made your bed, now lie in it!"), or impart grace "(How sad that you find yourself in this position. I'll pray for you and the people you love, who are going through these consequences with you"). 

I love Matthew West's song, Grace Wins, because it captures the heart of what I'm getting it. Now, without further ado, enjoy "Other Dogs' Droppings"!

Sometimes when I’m out walking my beloved surrogate dog, Dusty Miller, I have occasion to scoop up what I have affectionately termed ODD (other dogs’ droppings).Why do I do this? 

          
For one thing, I have a bit of a compulsive personality. By that I mean I am a self-diagnosed attention deficit-type character who, for instance, in the middle of checking email, suddenly notices some chipped paint in the corner of the room, and feels compelled to immediately grab scraper and brush to tend to the “emergency” that became urgent the moment I caught sight of it.

In other words, it’s hard for me to ignore little things that could maybe wait till later.

When I see litter in the halls of the school where I work, I often pick it up. When I come across smelly “packages” left by less considerate dog walkers, I feel it my civic duty to clean them up.

Sound silly? Consider this: my mother often bragged that she could ward off a rainy vacation simply by bringing an umbrella. Likewise, I must subconsciously believe I can stave off poop-decorated footwear by retrieving any messes I come across (although this  notion was disproved just the other day when I detected that unmistakable aroma emanating from my shoes - cleated, of course - upon arriving home after a stroll with Dusty).

Another reason I stoop to freshen up the neighborhood is because I’m fairly (make that “quite”) certain that some of the leavings I come across are (horrors!) from Dusty herself.  My sons, who alternately walk our adopted pooch, are wonderful in most ways, but do not share my cleanliness fetish in this area. My suspicions have been confirmed by the fact that they regularly depart without scooping bag in hand. Therefore, it seems only reasonable that some of this muck really belongs to me. I feel responsible to do my part.

Much of this process reminds me of the Christian walk. So many messes come my way that I had nothing to do with, yet must either confront or avoid. When I encounter a neglected child or a homeless person or a battered wife, what business really is that of mine? Yet, there I am, plopped right in the middle of some uncomfortable situation, facing the choice of running in the opposite direction or staying put. Remember the gripping scene in Jurassic Park where the kids are left stranded by the cowardly lawyer? Picture the stricken face of the little girl when she piteously whimpers, “He left us! He left us!” Now recall the response of Dr. Alan Grant, self-proclaimed kid hater: “But that’s NOT what I’m gonna do.”

And he goes on to prove it, shepherding them through the whole saga of tyrannosaurus tag and raptor hide and seek. In the end they rest their heads on his shoulder, just because he chose to offer it to them. 

I want to be that shoulder. I should say, I need to be that shoulder, because it’s been given so many times to me and mine. Many good men from my church and other venues have stepped in to fill the void of my boys not living with their dad. Our neighbor Anita comes to their special events, as their own grandparents lovingly did when they were living, and provides that “Nana” perspective on life issues.

Note that I am not recommending doing for others that which they can and should do for themselves. In making this suggestion, I’m referring to aiding innocent victims, as opposed to enabling irresponsibility. Some situations require a judgment call which the almighty judge is only too happy to help us make if we will only ask Him.
           
There are plenty of times I want to hotfoot it in the opposite direction, much like the prophet Jonah did when God told him to do the impossible - preach to the Ninevites. He didn’t want the task because it meant being uprooted and inconvenienced and, worst of all, disloyal to his countrymen. God’s “executive order” forced him to essentially rescue Israel’s bitterest enemies from divine wrath. This would be comparable to asking your child to buddy up to the kid who’s been terrorizing him at school all year.  

“Invite him to your birthday party,” you plead.
            
 “Not on your life!” your son rejoins.   
   
 Your child didn’t cause the bullying, he did nothing to bring it on, yet you’re asking him to overlook and essentially overcome hurt feelings and bruised body with forgiveness followed by fellowship. It would be humorous if it weren’t completely insane.

 Yet Jonah came around to God’s way of thinking (with a bit of friendly persuasion from a gale and a giant fish), and so must we if we are to serve our King optimally. God tells us bluntly in Isaiah 55 that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (vv. 8-9). We should be neither surprised nor undone when God asks us to “tidy up” a situation not of our making.

After all, isn’t that exactly what He asked His Son to do?