The following is a story I wrote some time ago under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I just won an award from Writer’s Digest for the piece in the Inspirational category and thought I would share it with you:
It’s a Dog’s Life
Recently I was reading a collection of stories by James Herriot, the English veterinarian. One story told of a call he answered for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. When he arrived at the specified location, he found a Golden Retriever, about a year old, that had spent the majority of his life locked in a dark, windowless shed, chained to the wall, sitting in his own filth. The owner would give the dog water occasionally and throw it a crust of bread when he thought of it. Needless to say, the dog was in bad shape.
But it seemed that the dog was extremely trusting and good-natured and the decision was made to attempt to rescue it and restore it to good health. One sentence, at that point of the story, struck me to my very heart and soul.
“I often pondered on the beneficent providence which had decreed that an animal which had spent his first twelve months abandoned and unwanted, staring uncomprehendingly into that unchanging, stinking darkness, should be whisked in a moment into an existence of light and movement and love.”1
How awesome! Isn’t this exactly what God does for us? He whisks us, in the blink of an eye, into a world of light, movement and love after we have spent years sitting in our own filth, not even knowing there is another kinder, gentler world waiting for us beyond the walls of our “prison.” A prison where we have been chained, in the stinking darkness, due to past mistakes, wrong attitudes, stubbornness, rebellion or pride.
Put yourself in the dog’s place for just a moment. These four walls have comprised his whole world. He has known nothing but ill treatment for his whole life. He could have turned out mean, or broken spirited. He could have bitten the hand that reached out to rescue him, to pull him out into the light and fresh air, just because he didn’t know any better. He could have been scared of the change in his circumstances and wanted to run back to his shed, where at least he was familiar with what to expect in his life.
And isn’t this what some of us do when God calls us? We turn mean and bite that hand that means to save us, to give us a much better life. Or we are timid and scared of the change that is involved, so we run back to that dark, stinking place, thinking, “It doesn’t smell that bad. I can live with it.”
But it doesn’t end there. The first step in the rescue of the dog involved cutting away the flesh of his hindquarters that had rotted from all of those months sitting in his own excrement, his own filth. Just as our first step as Christians involves the cutting away of our flesh. This is not a comfortable process and some of us would just as soon remain sitting in our own filth to having our old, comfortable flesh cut away. Even if it is for our own good and will benefit us in the long run.
The next step in the dog’s healing process was a bath. After the bath, came the combing of the coat to remove all of the tangles and snarls in his hair. And if you have ever had snarls in your hair, you can attest to how uncomfortable this process is. The pulling and yanking on your scalp, the tears and watery eyes as you work diligently to pull the mess apart. Not a pleasant process, but when you are done, oh, how much better you look. God also seeks to clean us up, to make us presentable to Him and it can be a painful process, but when He is done, oh, how beautiful you are! “Who can stand when he appears for he will be like . . . a launderer’s soap.” Malachi 3:2, NIV
And of course, one of the most important steps to restore this dog is good food. A good diet will do more for his appearance than anything else. God provides each one of us a good diet if we will just take it, His word. And like any good diet, you must partake of the food regularly for it to be of any advantage to you. “… it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” John 6:32, NIV
The whole healing process for this dog took months. Months of baths and good food. Months of sitting in that stinking darkness could not be undone overnight. His new owners worked on him every day and eventually he was transformed into the dog he should have been in the first place. The dog he would have been if his original owner had treated him properly. God, too, can restore you to the person you should have been if you hadn’t got stuck in that stinking darkness. It is going to take some time, but in the end you will be just like new – better than new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Cor 5:17, NIV
Now, I don’t know if you have noticed one of the most important points of this story, so I will tell you. The dog could do none of this for himself. He had to rely on someone else to set him free, on someone else to cut away the rotting flesh, on someone else to bath him and clean him up and on someone else to feed him the good food. The only thing the dog could do is trust and believe in these people who had come to help him.
Just as we have to rely on someone else to do those same things for us and the only one that can do them all for you is our Almighty God. If you give Him the chance, He will set you free, bring you out into the light, cut away your dead flesh, clean you up and give you a diet of good food. Your only job is to trust Him and believe.
“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
1. Herriot, James. The Best of James Herriot St Martin’s Press, 1982. Pg. 185.