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Canine Case In Point

Spiritual Lessons from the Dog

By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Producer


CBN.comI am an auntie again—but not to a new niece or a new nephew. I am auntie to man's best friend, one particular dog named Fruppy.

Fruppy is my former roommate's caramel-colored Lhasa apso. I was there when she bought the dog. I helped to name him Frappuccino because he looks a lot like the cold coffee drink. But Fruppy—or Frupper, as I usually call him—doesn't know his real name. He just sits and stares at you as if to say, "Now, who exactly is Frappuccino?"

OK, so he isn't the smartest dog in the world. I used to tell Frupper we only keep him because he is cute.

And boy does he know that he is cute! He unabashedly wags his tail energetically to get a pet and a kind word from just about anyone, especially one of the neighborhood kids. Almost always, he gets lavish praise.

If only he could be as good at home! Bless his heart, he really does try, but sometimes Frupper forgets himself. Frupper can be relentlessly demanding. He will get into one of those moods when he will bark out orders in a hoarse string of syllables, like some continuous vocal gymnastics, and I could swear that his canine vocals span three octaves he sounds so upset. And all because a light wasn't left on—now really, is that something to get upset about? That's hardly worth a doggie in distress display of suffering.

One day, while trying to remedy this constant barking problem, I dashed out to the grocery store. While in the checkout line, my eyes landed on a book about dog training. It was one of those overpriced booklets stashed in amongst your daily horoscope and books on baby names. That's it! I thought. Obedience training is the answer. I grabbed the booklet, bought it, and promptly read it. Of course, I reasoned. The problem is Frupper thinks he is the alpha male. He thinks that HE is in control. We had better remedy that, I thought. And quickly.

So I tried to talk with authority and make Frupper look me in the eye. It would work for a while until the dog got distracted or forgot or simply dug in his heels (something he is very good at) in audacious disobedience. Why won't this dog obey? Why is this so hard?

If only Frupper could see himself the way that I see him.

Then the day arrives when the dog goes to the groomers, and this once poofy pooch with armloads of fur is a little, bitty skinny shorn dog with huge eyeballs. With a beret and a big, fat cigar, he would look more like an Italian Chihuahua than his Tibetan relatives. Interestingly, when he comes back practically scalped, Frupper is the sweetest, most gentle dog around. He is so humble.

The first time he got groomed, I thought, Did they give us the wrong dog? I wondered if Frupper was the object of some switched at birth snafu—no barking, no demanding, just a sweet demeanor from a teeny doggy. And that's when I saw a nugget of biblical truth.

Before, when Frupper is bushy, he sees himself more highly than he ought. Like Samson in the Bible, Frupper equates his strength and identity with his fur. He is very self-absorbed and not a bit humble with his lion mane. He will prance and bat those eyeballs like he is the cat's meow… well, something like that. But once the outward shell is gone and he is exposed, he is humble. It is as if he realizes that he is just a skinny little dog.

Sometimes God has to shave us, so to speak. We go through points in life where we are not invincible, where we are no longer cute or youthful looking, where what we relied on or prided ourselves in gets suddenly taken away. To the world we are bald, and we feel it. We see ourselves as others see us and we shut up. We look at ourselves squarely in the mirror and feel a sense of remorse. Is this what I really look like? we ask ourselves.

It’s never fun when the spotlight fades. It’s never fun when we are no longer top dog. However, it is a necessary part of our Christian growth. The Bible tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3). There are times when we will chafe as Frupper does under the discipline of the Lord. But as Job 5:17 says, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” And again in Hebrews 12:6, it says, “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

There are times when we desire to be the alpha in the household just as Frupper does, yet there can only be one alpha in our lives, and that is God, who calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega.” Our cuteness and our own talents can get us only so far in this life. If we wish not to have wizened spirits, we must recognize our neediness as sinners in need of grace and rely on His power and majesty, willingly placing ourselves in the leash of God’s authority, ready to heel at the very moment of God’s command.

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