Last week my beloved canine companion reminded me of a deeply personal and theological truth even though, in her pain, she hardly intended to do so. Do you remember the nasty two pronged thunder/lightning storm that passed through here last week? Well the storm hit, and I sadly observed this Border collie (usually decisive and “poetry in motion”) utterly frozen in indecision. Since JoAnne’s surgery, Abby has been hyper vigilant in protecting her “mommy.” She sleeps or just rests on the bed keeping JoAnne under her watchful protection. However, like most dogs, and in her case, intensely so, she is terrified of thunder. There is a place in the house (on the bed in another room in the dark) where she rides out such storms as she shivers, quakes and cries. But now the conundrum: Abby was caught between her self-imposed duty to protect her “sheep” while wanting to flee in fear. Her eyes expressed both terror and confusion, and as a result she was frozen in the hallway – suspended between duty and terror.
Now Abby is but a dog, and she can be endearing and annoying, tragic and triumphant – almost as much as we humans. But she is NOT one of us. Unlike all other creatures, only we humans are described in sacred scripture as having been created “in the image of God.” We baptized Christians are also defined by St. Paul as “the Body of Christ” – His presence in the world. We have a purpose in this world, and our lives are not to be defined merely by instinct or desire.
And yet, as I watched poor Abby and tried to comfort her amidst the cracks of “heavenly noise,” I was sadly reminded that we can fall into that same trap. We can be caught between what we ought to do and what we want to do. We can allow fear to freeze us into inaction. People do this. I’ve seen parishes do this, and I pray we never slide into that kind of inertia.
Being open to the Spirit means sometimes returning to our responsibilities in spite of fear. It means being where we may not wish to be doing what we do not wish to do. The risen Jesus told Peter that the day would come where he would be led where he would never wish to go! And Jesus may at times direct us, His church, in the same way. Fear may be real, but it is never the solution.