Since being chased by a rabid dog as a youth, dogs give me pause. The idea of not being able to fully trust how an animal will react on an off day makes me nervous. And yes, I have thought about if these trust issues subconsciously flow into my reservations with people. I have no desire to be attacked by any animal, regardless of how domesticated.
And yet, there is Freckles. She has been my comrade for over twelve years. I don’t think she knows she is a dog. Perhaps this has much to do with the fact I have treated her more like a friend. I trust her… on her good days and not-so-good days.
We had a not-so-good day this week as I woke up and found Freckles in pain.
Dressed in part pajamas and part whatever was nearest in the closet, I sit with an anxious heart and Freckles in the veterinarian lobby. I wonder how the cold floor must feel to her body, and I hope it gives her comfort rather than distress. Yet, her shaking limbs leaning into me give her thoughts away.
The lobby is full of pets on leashes and owners tethered to their dogs with obvious affection. I laugh at myself looking around the room. The resemblance between the pets and people is striking; personas and postures bridge conventional thought as if the leash itself is a shared link of understanding.
I discover a little late that there is one cat in the lobby — a kitten on her first visit. The kitty rests on a chair inside a cardboard box between her owner and me.
As much as I have a mental hesitation around dogs, I have a physical reaction to cat dander. The wait is long, but my response to the wait is quick: a runny nose, itchy throat, eye discomfort, red blotches on my neck. As my head pounds, the sound of Freckles’ name called by the nurse gives me hope for relief.
I leave the veterinarian’s office with an antibiotic for Freckles and an insatiable need for Benadryl. On the way home, Freckles rests gingerly on the passenger seat. “Be brave girl,” I tell her, believing she understands the sentiment behind words she may not understand. “You will feel better soon.” And I believe this hope for myself as well.
If I had seen the cat, I would have quickly removed myself to the other side of the room, maybe even waited outside with Freckles until called. But that is not always the course of life. Sometimes we don’t recognize what adversely affects us until we are already reacting.
It is much easier to run when you spot what’s coming and recognize the need to flee.
“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Timothy 2:22-24).
How many times have I reacted without recognizing the real source of my aggravation: the cat inside the box. I can become uncomfortable with irritation, impatient in my thinking, and quick to judge based on flawed perception. Reacting, I may leave the other person perplexed, or worse, wounded and myself confused and feeling guilty.
Only when I take the time to uncover the source of my trigger, which usually is rooted in fear, do I confirm (once again) that I have emotions which shouldn’t be trusted to provide clarity.
Mother Teresa once said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
This is life, isn’t it? If we always saw what was inside the box, we would believe our thinking so clearly that the need to trust God would be minimized, if not forgotten.
I want to be tethered to God in such a way that even if I don’t understand His ways, I will lean into His strong tenderness, desiring to follow His will.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I remember that day I ran from the dog chasing me as a youth. I remember the fear, but I don’t recall much beyond this overwhelming emotion. I cannot help but think, at times, I still react this way: overwhelmed and lacking trust. In these moments, my direction is led by shakable emotion rather than the unshakable Christ Jesus.
May I learn to practice control of thought; or perhaps more accurately put, total surrender of self to God Himself. Only in this surrender will I discover a balance of thought and action; and begin to bear a resemblance of my Creator. Fear will have no place to hide, and the cat will finally be out of the box.
“Be brave girl. You will feel better soon.”
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)