Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Things I learn from my pets

Last week we were forced to give our pets flea shampoos. Neither the cat nor the dog enjoy baths, and they really don't enjoy getting wet, lathered, and then being forced to sit there in that state for five minutes or so to give the pesticidal wash a chance to do its job. The cat, who has sharp claws and is not averse to using them, took two of us, while I was able to mostly manage the dog by myself - at least until it came time to rinse off. At that point he decided he'd had enough, and kept pulling away from the rinse water. I had no way of explaining that if I didn't rinse the soap off him, he'd be in much worse shape. Finally Ellen had to step in and rinse while I held him. It was an hour-long effort that I did in my swim trunks and followed with a shower.

The ordeal probably mystified the pets. They know nothing of parasites or their long-term dangers, much less of human aversion to sharing living spaces with infested animals. We could see from their itching that they didn't enjoy their little guests, but they couldn't even make the cause-and-effect connection between the discomfort and the small insects, much less between the remedy and relief. To them it must have seemed that their loving masters, who provide food and water and affection and walks, had suddenly gone berserk. They were pinioned, soaked, covered with smelly stuff, thoroughly drenched, and then rubbed with towels. And then they weren't even allowed back inside for an hour or so! No amount of soothing talk and reassurance could make up for this bizarre behaviour on our part.

All this got me thinking of how God must have to deal with us humans at times. His understanding stands much further above ours than ours does above our pets. What spiritual and personal problems does He understand of which we have no comprehension? Maybe there are times we need the spiritual equivalent of a flea bath - how do we respond when we're suddenly pinioned, drenched, lathered, immobilized, and thoroughly rinsed?

I know I have a tendency to howl and struggle and fight what I'm being put through. Most of all, I begin to wonder about the One who is subjecting me to all this. What did I do wrong? Am I being punished? Have I been forgotten? What happened to the love and comfort and consolation? I forget that God may have reasons that He can't explain to me because I have no framework for comprehending them, any more than my pets have a framework for understanding flea baths.

For my pets, the matter ultimately had to come down to their trust in us. We were their masters, who had a long history of caring for them. Though they balked and fussed, they submitted to our care. It took a bit of brute force at times, but had they wished to really fight, we wouldn't have been able to help them. As it was, their familiarity with us, and the history of care we had with them, mollified them enough. Their trust in us helped them through the ordeal, after which they were in much better shape.

I hope I remember that next time God subjects me to something difficult in my life. When He pinions me in some difficult circumstances and starts doing things that are troublesome and inexplicable, I hope I fall back on trusting Him. Maybe He's cleaning up some spiritual parasites I didn't know I have, or working on some personality problem or besetting sin that has troubled me all my life. Maybe someday I'll be able to understand why I'm being put through this, or maybe I never will. But I hope I'll have the trust to sit still and let Him do whatever His wisdom deems necessary, and not doubt His love and care for me.

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