I could write a book about the lessons I've learned throughout the years from our various dogs. From Toby, there's his incredible ferociousness in guarding us from would-be intruders, much like the Holy Spirit guards us from the enemy, while we stand and stand and stand; from Sassy, her intentional watchfulness, exactly what Jesus spoke in the parable of the ten virgins and their lit lamps. From Jemima of the peaceful heart, there are so many lessons, I could spend this whole post and the next dozen talking about her--her instant obedience when her master called, her focus on the one thing (tennis balls), no matter what extraneous distractions there might be, her hiding her treasures (stuffed animals she culled from our kids, the neighbors, whoever) under bushels, bushed, dirt of any kind (have I written about finding one with its head sticking out of the ground--a teddy bear--the winter after she died, and I cried to see it, wanted to leave it but Jackson grabbed it and immediately tore it apart! And the one we found just a month ago, likely three years after she buried it!); from Jackson, there's the recent lesson of living with reduced abilities with grace and good humor and a continual wagging of his tail. How I can learn--should learn!--from this. Oh, that I were as easy-going, as cheerful in pain as he is.
But today I want to write about Jamaica. A week or so ago, E was outside throwing for her, while I watched. Ever since Maica began retrieving balls, we've noticed that now and then, but not every time, she spends a long time sniffing the grass on her way back across the lawn. I've always gotten a kick out of this behavior, since it's so clearly the exact same grass she's sniffed, done her business on, run across her entire life. What in the world does she expect to discover this time? E said, "She's just trying to figure out where it all went wrong." And the light went on for me. That's exactly what she's doing (though Beve, the counselor, astutely pointed out that it's also more than a little OCD to do this!). She only bends her head to the ground when she fails to catch the ball on the fly, or on a single hop. When she misses that catch and has to go chasing the tennis balls, she detours all over the lawn until she picks up the scent of where the ball landed. Seriously, every time she messes up, she retraces her steps until she has it figured out, then she lifts her head and runs back to the thrower.
Searching for where it all went wrong. That's a lesson I could do well to study. Retracing my steps spiritually to discover where I sinned, where I got off track, where the ball bounced and I didn't pick it up. I don't believe that everything that has gone wrong in my life has a one-to-one correlation with my sin. I know we live in a fallen world, I know that the enemy wants a foothold in my life. However, I also believe that sin has consequence, that I compromise and make grave (yes, putting Jesus in the grave, I mean) errors that have changed the course of my life. Even though I am forgiven, not 'held in contempt', so to speak, for these sins, at least, not legally in God's courtroom.
But when I miss the ball, when I get off track, I would be wise to do as Jamaica does--to retrace my steps, to turn around and smell the earth of that missed ball. This, in theological parlance, is repentance. Far more than simply saying I'm sorry, it's actually turning around and going the other way. Going back to where the sin was, and beginning again from there. Asking God to throw to me again--which He will gladly do--but also, asking Him to help me catch whatever He tosses in my direction. Make me sure-footed, give me soft hands, give me keen eyes. This is Spirit work, to aid us in doing what God calls us to do. Not sticking out my chin and saying "I can do it better, I am able," but admitting, "I need You to make me able." That, my friends, is a significant difference.