Not long ago I wrote about how Charlie has quite a repertoire of tricks he can do. Like many dogs, he can sit, speak, and lay down. In addition to that, Charlie can roll over, play dead, and shake hands. His tricks are amusing for me and my friends, but not all dogs do tricks.
Some dogs live a very simple life. They never learn any tricks at all. I guess their owners either treat those animals as outside pets or perhaps don’t have the patience for using nonverbal cues to teach an animal.
There are other dogs that have a tremendous capacity for learning, but I wouldn't really call what they do tricks. We have trained dogs to sniff out drugs, to function as security animals, and even to be working companions to people with a variety of disabilities.
Service dogs are trained to help people with disabilities including service to those who are blind, deaf, and/or paralyzed in some way. These dogs can do such things as lead a person, turn lights on and off, retrieve needed objects, and even bring a phone.
All of these learned abilities don’t necessarily speak to the intelligence of the dog as much to their formation and training. Of course, their particular temperament is a factor in both their training and then what partner they are paired with.
I think people aren’t much different when it comes to occupations. There are folks who have a capacity to learn many skills, and there are those that don’t. We have nurses, doctors, and surgeons who are all in the medical field, but have different types of training and education. Also necessary masons and plumbers have specialized training, but in a much different environment than medical professionals.
We have come to accept that people have a different capacity for learning and study, and also different natural talents and temperaments. These things play a pivotal role in what occupation a person eventually takes on in life. We also respect the person that decides after 20 or 30 years in a particular field, that they want to do something different, and so learn a new trade.
Right about now I suppose you are thinking, sure Christy, but what does any of this have to do with God or the Church? Well, I think these are very much related!
When we talk about our faith life, it has become popular to call it a journey. In this diocese, we even refer to it as a “journey of a lifetime.” Although we say those words, I don’t know if we really give them the credence they deserve.
It seems to me we go about expecting others to have the same level of engagement in our faith life that we do.
Whether we have a little or a lot of God in our life, we think everybody ought to do the same. But that isn’t really how we were made, was it?
We also say we should meet people where they are, but then hold them to a higher standard than they are able to fulfil, but that isn’t fair or just.
Just like dogs in their abilities, or our occupations, people learn and grow in their faith both to different levels of understanding and in different ways of engagement. They also grow at different rates and based on different circumstances.
We don’t have control over another person’s faith life any more than we have control over any of their relationships. Each individual has to come to relationship with God in their own way. It isn’t ours to judge how much a person can handle at their particular juncture. All we can offer others is what hasmade sense for us and how God has been present in our lives. That may or may not work for the other person, and we need to learn to give that to God.
Ultimately, I don’t think a dog is loved any less if he does a thousand tricks or none at all. The same is true of God. Right, Charlie?
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
I love having a dog, but it sure is a lot of work. Charlie needs to be fed twice a day every day. He needs to be given water several times a day, especially in the heat we have been having. He also needs to be supervised when doing doggie business outside.
Then there are his grooming needs! A dog with such beautiful long hair needs to be brushed regularly. Since he is an inside dog, he needs to have his nails trimmed, and I buff them for him too. At least once a month he gets a bath to keep his skin fresh and clean.
Charlie also needs to visit the veterinarian! So far, he has been a healthy pup so he only goes once a year. He gets a regular check-up and any boosters he might need.
Along with all of Charlie’s physical needs, he also needs love and attention. He gets lots of pets and snuggles from me, but he also needs to play. He wants to run around, chase a ball, and hunt for woodland creatures.
All this is a lot of work for just one person, so I am thankful that my husband and kids are there to help out! I wouldn’t be able to take care of all of Charlie’s needs with just them, though. We need the vet to take care of shots and checkups. When I go on vacation, we get friends to watch him or he
goes to the kennel.
We need others in more than just pet care. We need others in our lives everyday.
There seems to be a strong tendency (especially for us, Americans) to think we can do things on our own. Independence is highly valued. I don’t know if it’s really a true story, though.
If you think about it, there isn’t much you can say you’ve done without some help from others.
We don’t learn to walk or talk or read on our own. We don’t grow all our own food. We don’t drive in cars we’ve made or on roads we’ve paved. We don’t pay ourselves, we don’t generate our own electric, and we don’t build our own homes.
While we like to kid ourselves that we are independent, the truth is we rely on others for many things. That reliance seems to increase as we age or if we become ill. One of the complaints I hear most often when I visit homebound folks is that they aren’t independent anymore. The good news is, there are people who want to help!
One of the things I find interesting about working for the church is the plethora of people who want to do something good and positive for others and the severe lack of folks who want someone to help them.
It seems funny that every time we read the story of the good Samaritan the only person we imagine being is the passerby or the helper. What about when you are the one who has been robbed and beaten?
Of course, I don’t wish ill on anyone, but misfortune, poor health, and even old age happen to us as part of life. That’s reality. Why do we try so hard to pretend either it isn’t happening or won’t?
Vulnerability is part of human existence. We are fragile both physically and mentally. That is a scary state, especially in a world that insists on our security and strength.
God knows our weakness and he loves us through it. He sent Jesus to show us the way, and He told us how to care for each other. Life has that beautiful ebb and flow like the ocean. Sometimes we give the help, sometimes we receive it. There is no shame in that.
We need each other. We cannot accomplish much in life without others. It is through learning how to accept love and assistance from other people that we learn how to accept that love and assistance from God, himself.
Charlie doesn’t mind who puts the food in his dish, he only knows that he can’t do it for himself. I guess he has learned to ask for help. Right, Charlie?
Christy Cabaniss - Parish Minister