More than a few of you have asked me when I will next feature Abby (our border collie) in this series. Abby usually determines this by what she may have taught me in a given week. Well, she has been at it again, so here goes.
One of the themes you are going to hear at our annual meeting (at least in my address to the parish) is our need (not just St. John’s but Christians in general) to follow through on our commitments with desire and passion. I’ve read too many articles from “experts” who observe (and yeah, maybe even judge – oooh -) that it has become culturally acceptable to make a promise to do or not do something but later to change one’s mind any time after because one’s mood or interest has now changed.
And this brings me to this little creature that God has put into JoAnne’s and my life. One thing about a Border collie: she is tenacious! If she needs to “patrol” or “sniff” an area in the yard that her outdoor friends (bunnies or deer, among others) have wandered through during the night, she may tear off my arm but she will go to that area to make sure they are OK. If she hears a sound that is out of place, she must investigate to protect her flock. (I hate being a sheep!) When it is a certain time in the afternoon, she knows that her daddy/mommy needs to cook supper, and she will push you (physically if necessary) and talk at you until you move. When the time gets closer for her own meal, she will stare you down as if her little eyes had the voltage of Darth Vader’s Death Star’s power beam! Nothing deters her. If you’re not part of the solution, she will move you out of the way!
This is what I have learned from her. More than observing merely animal “instinct,” I truly believe I am watching a creature of God who discovers (or intuits) what needs to be done, and then will always follow through and accomplish the task whether convenient or not. From years of pastoral experience, I know that in small parish communities, like our own, sometimes it is easier to just let someone else do the work or to not follow through with an idea. One gets tired, and yes, it is really hard work being an active member of a small church.
When I am really dragging and just not wanting to write that next report (diocesan, parochial or for the Seminary), improve a probably acceptable but really not good enough sermon, come up with one more new idea at yet another meeting, or deal politely with one parishioner who secretly desires to complain about another (or me), I am reminded of a little dog who pursues everything she does with passion and commitment. Yes, she is forgiving and loving (far more than some Christians, myself included have been – and so remarkable for this once-abused animal), but I am in awe of her never-say-die pursuit of any goal. She does not know how to quit or “mail it in” (to use a sports image). In being this way, she teaches me how to pursue my own ministry as a believer in Jesus and as a pastor of his people with passion, excitement and the desire to follow up any task or idea given to me. So, are there any of you who want to rent out a dog who is more than willing to teach you so much????