Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lily and the Puddle

This is our dog, Lily, after our walk today...

This is noteworthy because today was a big day for us.  Lily became my teacher.  

We got Lily at a local animal shelter the day before Easter, approximately six months ago.  She's our Easter Lily.  She has been the source of much joy and consternation.  The $5.00 we paid for her has seemed like $5.00 too much on many, many occasions.  These include repeated peeing on the carpet, getting into the trash and depositing its contents throughout the house, throwing up on various rugs, and some still-unresolved problem with anal gland expression.  I mean, really, it couldn't get any more disgusting.  My boys will eagerly tell you I love her the least of everyone in our family.  They're probably right.  

But, we all have our place with her.  Of the boys, the youngest is her "care taker", she loves to chase and nip at the middle one's calves, and she sleeps on the the bed of the oldest.  My husband trims her nails, bathes her, and has a love/hate relationship with her, as I do, depending on how recently she has offended our sensibilities and desire for order, and neutral smells.  I'm the one who walks her, and she seems to let this one positive aspect drape others less so.  

With a history of acute UPS-truck-related deafness, a proclivity for running, and a curiosity about everything, we've done a lot of cussing in our front yard, trying to give our new-ish canine family member a little freedom out of the house and off the leash.  It's slowly getting better.

So, today was a real experiment, as we ventured to some local trails off-leash, which is allowed, but your dog must be under voice control (underlined just like it says on the sign), at all times.  We were definitely gambling here.  I counted the cars on the way in to the parking lot, considering the likelihood of running into anyone, how many dog-fighting opportunities there might be, the possibility that my dog may just run off altogether, and how I would explain that to my boys, knowing they would be suspicious, since they think I hate her anyway.     

Nevertheless, we started out, and something wonderful happened.  

She was delighted to be free and delighted to be near me all at the same time.  It was like we'd been walking these trails for years and we were the subject of all the books written about man and his best friend.  Huh!

If I'm on a trail of any kind, I'm happy.  But, as we went along, I realized how my happiness multiplied at watching her enjoy her freedom, as well as being aware of her desire to share it with me. She didn't have to. She would race ahead and saunter back.  At all of the forks in the road, she was ahead of me, so she'd make a guess (usually the wrong one), but I'd call her name one time, and she would eagerly correct her course.  

As so often happens in my thoughts, God showed up and whispered, "See?".  Yes.  Yes, I see.

I saw many things.  I saw that her desire was to lay in every puddle of water we crossed.

I also saw that she was willing to abandon her puddle, if it meant parting ways with me.  I saw that I would feel sad for her if she had to pee on every tree, smell every leaf, or stay in every puddle she entered, at the cost of pursuing what was still ahead. 

Then, I thought of the patients I've visited in the hospital trying to detox from one addiction or another, and all of us who end up chasing some inherently good desire, and lose our freedom in pursuit of it.  We get stuck.  We come to a fork in the road, and we can't change course.  We can't get out of the puddle.  We like it too much.

As a wise man once told me, "You're not free to say 'yes' until you're free to say 'no'.  This is true for everything from everyday commitments to illicit pleasures.  Words to live by.

One patient who fought his addiction for twenty-something years, wasn't able to kick it until he was on the brink of losing his wife and kids, when he realized he loved them more than prescription drugs.  Based on his experience, it seems we ultimately lack the greater, stronger, and more noble desire to be with/for others and the One who made us for Himself.  There are as many explanations for this "lack" as there are people.  

We have this great thirst for freedom because our most fundamental aspiration is for happiness; and we sense that there is no happiness without love, and no love without freedom.  This is perfectly true.  Human beings were created for love, and they can only find happiness in loving and being loved.
-Interior Freedom, Jacques Phillipe

I think the same is true for dogs, which is why we relate to them so well.  

With our dog, it has taken six months to get to the place where her desire for communion outweighs everything else.   I guess this evolution of trust and desire has developed slowly and quietly (and sometimes very stinkily), as we've shared time and space under one roof.  Learning routines, things we love, and things to avoid at all costs.  Today, my dog was willing to leave her puddle or switch directions entirely, out of a desire to be with me, as inexplicable as that is. 

Can I move from master to dog in this story and let God take my place?  

Left or right, wet or dry, stay or go, it's all the same to me -- as long as I can remain in Your Presence. 
Can I become as free as my dog off-leash?  Is it even possible to spend enough time with God to learn to desire Him more than a puddle, money, sex, drugs, or anything else?  The saints challenge our flesh and our logic with a resounding YES.  It only feels impossible.   

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