We are taking care of a couple of dogs this week, some of our favorite four-footeds. This morning I started out on a walk with them through the alleys next to their house. It was one of those cool, misty mornings after an evening thunder shower. The sun was just rising, and we were all looking forward to a pleasant stroll.
But we were not halfway down the driveway before Hildy, who has a lot of German Shepherd in her ancestry, lunged forward and began barking wildly. She dragged me and Norah, the other dog, over to the neighbor’s fence, where their dog was furiously barking from his backyard. Hildy hates that dog; it once bit Norah.
Norah went with Hildy in her mad dash at the fence more to show solidarity with her pack mate than because she had any interest in the fight. Norah is not flapped by much. Going to the vet or to the groomer are about the only things that frighten her.
After I managed to drag Hildy away and we continued on our walk, she became her usual calm, gentle self. It was as if a possession passed. We all had a lovely ramble, with plenty of stops for sniffing and other doggy activities. When we got home the Evil Dog Next Door was gone, and we had nothing in front of us except the happy anticipation of breakfast.
I feel a real kinship with Hildy. A rational being most of the time, I am nevertheless thrown into a tizzy over certain issues. Emotion carries me away, and I may as well be barking at a fence. When I calm down it all seems quite extreme and silly.
I once thought the solution was to become more like Norah. I hoped that my prayer discipline would make me essentially a different person, one who never finds herself nose to nose with a fence. But that isn’t how it works. I am still much more like Hildy.
“If you abide in me and my words abide in you,” begins today’s passage from the Gospel of John. No matter where I am – or how little consciousness I’m managing to maintain – I do abide in Christ. Knowing it, however, is a completely different thing. When Hildy rushed the fence she brought me and Norah along because we were both leashed to her. When I rush the fence I bring Christ along. And in every nanosecond in which I am carried away by fear or anger there is the possibility of realizing that God is right there tugging on the leash, inviting me to disengage and take a breath. It’s up to me to become aware.
God does not forsake me in my fence-rushing, though; God loves my Hildy-like spirit. That’s the good news. That’s Christ’s words abiding in me. I am loved. So are you. I’ll probably have to ask your forgiveness again and again for my impetuousness, but when I stop, when I become aware, I know in every cell in my body that I am loved. I abide in Christ.
“If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” What do we wish for from that place of having woken up to the fact that the Master is on the other end of the leash? What do we need when we abide in Christ? What do we yearn for?
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.