God, and Me

Tash (short for Natasha) is my dog–a beautiful,
ebony-colored mix of border collie and Australian shepherd.  

We adopted her about ten years ago from a rescue dog
shelter. When they found her,  she had been beaten so badly that her hip was
fractured, there was no hair on her back, and her tail was missing.  She was one hour away from being euthanized at a public pound. 

We practically had to sign
our lives away to adopt her. We agreed to pay all her veterinary bills,
never strike her, and bring her back to the shelter if we could not keep
her.  The people at the shelter were
adamant that none of their animals would ever be
harmed again.  

Tash trembled and whimpered as I put her in the back seat. She was so afraid!  I stroked her neck and tried to reassure her.
“Girl, you have no idea how much you are going to be spoiled!” She would never
be anything but loved. 

Tash didn’t act like
the other dogs we had.  She didn’t know
how to play with toys—she’d never seen one. 
She’d never been on a walk. She cowered in her open cage, afraid to come
out.  It was a week before she made a
sound. When we tried to pet her, she would shrink from our touch.  

But in time, Tash grew familiar with her new
surroundings.  The hair on her haunches
grew back.  She turned out to have a very
loud bark when she felt safe enough to
make noise. She started enjoying the whole back yard she had to herself.  We gave her toys, and she tore into them with glee, and even played fetch occasionally.
We continued loving her, and in time, she came to return that love.

Once I was sitting on the couch, and Tash came and laid
beside me.  Her face turned up and to
me.  A direct stare between dogs is
usually considered a challenge, which is
why you never look a strange dog in the eye; but if a dog looks you in the eye without any sign of
aggression, it means they trust you. 
Tasha was looking at me as a friend.

Tash laid her chin on my leg.  I stroked her fur with my hand. It was a
moment of deep, intimate communication. 
The vast differences between us–the gap of language, experience,
intelligence and perception–had disappeared as we came together in real and
permanent love and trust.

Training Tash proved to be a problem.  She literally flunked out of obedience
school.  She didn’t feel comfortable
around other dogs. Tash has a willful,
independent streak that probably came from her early abuse.  I imagined what she must have experienced in her unknown life with her abuser, crowded into pens with other starving dogs.
But the ghosts of her past have grown weaker with every passing year.

Nevertheless, we have had some incidents.  She’s highly protective of us. Once on a
walk, a jogger came along unexpectedly and she nipped him.  The jogger reported her to the dog
catcher,  and we got a visit from
him.  Tash nipped the dog catcher.   When neighbors drop by, she gets protective,
and we have to hold her until she calms down. 
She thinks she is defending us, instead
of us defending her! 

But as she lived with us, her behavior has improved.  We can now board her with other dogs at an
expensive doggie summer camp where the owners schedule regular play time
romps.  Now, she is doing well with the other dogs.  She doesn’t fear them
anymore, because she’s learned to trust her keepers who we have deemed worthy
of protecting her. She trusts them because she trusts us.  I’d like to think that Tash talks to them
in whatever doggy language they speak, and tells them about us,  just as we brag about our beautiful little girl. 

Tash is a beautiful dog. 
Most evenings, I take her for a three or four mile walk.  Children come up to her and ask to pet her.
People sometimes stop their cars just to
admire her.  She enjoys the attention as much as I do. 
She looks at me with those big brown eyes and gives me a thankful, doggie grin.  

There is still something 
of the wild dog inside her. 
Sometimes she will stop at a patch of tall grass or leaves and take a
spontaneous roll.  If we aren’t in a
hurry, I let her; she is just having some harmless fun.  But other times she smells an animal track or
hears a noisy car or big truck and instinctively wants to chase it.  Then she almost pulls my arm out if its
socket, trying to break the leash.  I have to pull her in hard for her own protection. 

On one dark, cloudy night Tash
and I were standing on the curb as several cars drove by.  I wasn’t paying attention, and forgot to
shorten her leash. She unexpectedly leaped at the first car. I yelled “Stay!” but it was too late.    Before she could return, the second car hit her, catching Tash on the side of her head.  She went down like a stone, twisted and unconscious.

Tash looked dead.  I dragged her twisted body into the light
where I could see her.  Her legs were useless;  her mouth was open and filled
with blood.  For a long time, she lay immobile. Then she started to breathe in shallow gasps, and her legs twitched violently.

 I called my wife and she brought the car.   We loaded her into the back seat, and we drove as fast as we could to the emergency vet.  Her legs thrashed with convulsions, tearing holes in the upholstery. 
When we got there, the doctors told us she had a severe concussion that would have killed a person, but since dogs have harder heads than people, she would  probably recover.

In about a week she made a complete recovery.  We were ecstatic to have her home. Now she is
laying by my chair as I write these words. She is one happy dog.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with the
kingdom of God?  Only this:

In the Kingdom,  I  am the dog. 
God is my master.  I was in a very dark place.   I have had my share of the abuses and
mistreatments in life because I live in a fallen world, full of distrust, defensiveness, 
selfishness.  People act like snarling, starving dogs because that is what the world had made us.  Satan, the Abuser runs this pen.  Here, it’s every dog for itself.  No wonder we lash out over the smallest
slights, real or imagined.  Starving dogs act like wolves, and a world full of wolves is a dangerous place to be.

For some reason, my Master chose to rescue me.  I don’t know why He picked me out of the
pack, but I am grateful. 

My Master brought me to His home.  At first, I didn’t know how
to behave. I still thought I had to defend myself, so I either shrank from
others or lashed out defensively.   I didn’t know how to play.  But He gave me a safe place to be.  He fed me with good food.  He gave me room to be myself, offering me
intimacy and comfort when I wanted it and space when I didn’t. 

The gap between my Master and myself is infinitely larger
than the gap between Tash and I.  His intelligence and knowledge is infinite. 
Even so,  He meets me on my level, eye to eye and heart to heart.   He did
what I could never have done for Tash.  He entered the pen where I was, taking on my form,  setting himself in the middle of the growling, snarling, abusive mess we call the human condition.  He suffered, got bit,  torn apart, and eventually nailed to a piece of wood,  paying an unimaginable price to
get me out of that cage.  I can’t imagine why, but He spanned that gap for the pleasure of bringing me into His house.  “Don’t worry,” He communicated to me in a way that I could understand. “You’re safe now.  You have no idea how good your life is going
to be from now on.”

Sometimes I revert to my old dog ways.  I lash out, because I’m not accustomed to a safe place. When I do, I’m happy that my Master keeps me on the leash.  My disobedience
still gets me in trouble. Then I hurt—but not from His hand. He would never
strike me.  My pain comes from my foolishness. When I get really hurt,  He stays with me and cares for me, until I recover.  He never abandons me.  

When I do follow Him, others see the difference in me.
Sometimes, they even say “Good boy!” I like that!  If I had a tail, I would wag it!

If those same people who see the good inside of me had met me back in that awful pen,  I might have bitten out a chunk out of them.   I’m only good because I have a good
Master. If I bless people,  it’s because God has blessed me.  I wish everyone in the snarling pack where I
came from could know my Master and know what it was like to be with Him and follow Him.

  As it is written:

“The Lord is my Master; I have everything I need,

He makes me roll in the sweet-smelling

He gives me clean water–my bowl is always
full, and the treats keep coming!

He keeps me walking down the right path.

Even when I wander down the path where the
wolves roam,

His stick and his leash keep me
protected.  That comforts me.

Even when I have to get in a pen with the
big dogs, 

He keeps me safe, because He goes there,

When I get all clawed up,  he’s there with ointment to help me.

Everywhere I go, the scent of His goodness
and mercy follow me

And when it’s time go to my bed, I sleep at
the feet of my Master. “ 

                                       Psalm 23  CV (Canine Version)