All I can make out is frantic squawks and a flurry of white feathers. Moments before I was pouring myself a bowl of cereal and noticed my Rhode Island Red dashing for the street in holy terror. Half a second later it all makes sense as my two year old emphatically repeats “Doggy! Doggy! In da shard!” Now I’m standing on the hill staring down a stray dog who decided he wanted to “play” with my chickens.
As it went, ten minutes later, I could only account for the well being of one of my chickens but Oaklee (the dog) had found a comfortable spot on my kitchen floor while waiting for his owner to come get him. The whole thing had conflict written all over it. Pit Bull, white feathers all over the yard, small child… what kind of owner… now all my chickens…
There was no conflict.
Oaklee is a dog. Dogs chase animals. He was properly tagged and well cared for. Not to mention obedient. I could tell the owner was waiting for the other foot to fall. The lecture about how he needed to be more careful. Especially with that type of dog. Turns out he’s just a really nice guy, married, with two kids of his own working two jobs. Oh, and he and his wife would like to know more about backyard chickens.
Now, my hens are all back home, my newly discovered neighbor brought us pizza and Oaklee has a permanent friend in my daughter. But here’s the real deal. I didn’t just decide to stuff all my frustration at some dumb dog monopolizing the better part of my afternoon. I didn’t just grit my teeth and be kind because that’s the “christian” thing to do. The fact is yesterday, I was wrestling with something much more important than the animal instinct of pit bulls to eat chickens. I was wrestling with my own animal instinct.
I’m afraid for some time now, rage has sought to be my primary defense mechanism. It comes bursting out, like a dam- breeched, when I least expect it. Always fronting strength but leaving me, and often something else, very broken. And yesterday, I was trying to pick up the pieces again. Over the years, the Father has worked to free me of this. Leading me through crooked paths in my heart to rooms filled with pain, fear, or the need for control. Surprised and ashamed by the recent resurfacing of this dangerous coping mechanism I’ve had to fall on my knees and ask Him again “What gives? I love you, so why am I struggling with this same old nature?”. Though likely not an exhaustive answer, I’m left with these thoughts…
1. When we grow it’s very tempting to revert back to old coping mechanisms. It’s as if in the face of new territory we want something familiar. Also, our walk of sanctification consists more of going down than it does going forward. That is to say, letting Christ pierce deeper into our heart. Each cell in our body has the same DNA in it, likewise the heart. And so we’re prone to struggle with the same thing no matter how many layers deep we go. I think my make-up will be forever prone to the same destructive tendencies but maturity will cause me to recognize and rest in my constant need for Him. No more need for those nasty coping mechanisms.
2. Pride is more dangerous than rage. I came to the sobering realization on the couch this morning that I’ve been courting pride. Subtle mindsets, masking themselves as a desire for holiness, have caused me to start focusing on myself and those around me. What I should be doing. What they should be doing. What we should be doing. Really noble sounding but utterly full of self-righteousness and a critical spirit. As dangerous as rage is, pride is more dangerous, because it cuts off our hearts from the one realization that can make any difference. I need You. You are the only one who can do this. He knows this and loves me to much to let me go there. And so, the stage is set, and I now see again the sobering reality of me apart from Him. There is nothing good. Only pain.
But that’s not too big for Him. His mercy… well let’s just say it’s a lot bigger than dogs and chickens. It’s able to pay the steepest of debts, compiled at the highest of interests rates. And so now, I’m broken, yes. I’ve got some things I’m going to have to work through. But I’m also grateful too. Grateful that I got to meet a neighbor and that when I did, my Father had taught me well this lesson…
We all need mercy.