Today is Halloween and this book is a murder, thriller, in the religious dramatic fiction….hum.
Today’s post is part of a blog tour Erin McCole-Cupp!
Thanks for hosting me, Lisa! See, dear reader, Lisa and I go way back—way back to the 1990s, when the internet was something viewed on a black screen in tiny pinpoints of green light. Lisa knew me through my first conversion, the one where I became a Christian, but I’m not sure she knows about my second, far more recent conversion: that from cat person to dog person—and more specifically to a small dog person.
In Lisa’s latest (and wonderful) book Dog in the Gap, she wrote a chapter called “Taming,” in which she discusses how we humans are tamed by dogs. She writes that the mutual process of caring and being cared for by a dog, “…can, if we let it, carry over into our other relationships–this sacred act of taming each other. Instead of tolerating each other, we go further in.”
I experienced this, more specifically what Lisa identifies in that same chapter as “mutuality,” starting this past Spring. We were thinking about getting a second cat…
…because this one doesn’t like us.
When we arrived at the local shelter, we were shocked to find their cat residence virtually empty. Apparently we’d arrived before the bumper crop of abandoned kittens was due.
“Well, let’s go say ‘hi’ to the dogs,” my husband said. We went through the kennel and one of the residents made our youngest stop in her tracks. She pointed and shrieked with delight.
“Tiny dog! Tiny dog!”
Ugh. I’d always called small dogs “hors d’oeuvres” or “light snacks,” good for nothing but barking at all hours. And who on earth would want a tiny ball of noise called a rat terrier? No. Thank. You. Still, for the sake of the kids, I gave in to a “visit” with the little guy, assuming he’d annoy them so much that they’d see some sense and we’d come back in a few weeks for our kitten.
When the shelter volunteer brought him in to us she warned, “Now don’t expect too much, because he’s pretty shy and takes a long time to warm up to–“
The little blur dashed in, threw himself down in front of us all, belly up for scratching. His tongue lolled out. He was smiling.
“—new people,” the worker finished. “Wow! Look at that!”
We did not choose Sigma. Sigma chose us.
What did he do next that won me over? Funny enough, it was the barking. He barks less than I expected a little dog to bark, but when he does bark, it’s because he is trying to protect our pack. Stranger at the door? Get away! Stranger approaching while the kids walk him? Stay back! Is a friend yelling near me, his Mommy? Yowwowwowwowwow! You’re not allowed to bark at her! Rat terriers are known for being wary of strangers and protective of their territory. We belong to him.
The most precious example of this I can give is the time a relative stranger accidentally tripped over my middle child’s feet. Before he could apologize, Sigma jumped up, tapped the guy’s shins with both front paws, and gave a low warning bark. Do not hurt her! She is under my protection!
As I apologized, the perceived “offender” said, “Don’t apologize. That’s the kind of dog you want taking care of your kids.”
I’ve had a dog before. I’ve never before had a dog who would clearly give his life for mine and my family’s. I’ve read about heroic dogs before, but part of me always thought those were melodramatic stories made up to fill dead air on morning radio shows. Now that I’ve seen the active loyalty of a dog, I can believe that those stories are real. Siggie believes that we are worth heroic effort.
Sigma chose us. We belong to him. He believes we are worth heroic effort. If “evangelization” means at its root “to bring a message,” Sigma has done just that. He won me over specifically, not because of anything he demanded of me but because of my value to him, just as I am. He was the first pet with which (with whom? hm) I’ve experienced the “mutuality” that Lisa talks about in Dog in the Gap. Yes, we feed him, walk him, rub his belly, anoint him with flea and tick preventative, and throw tennis balls around for him. But he does for us, too.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of “evangelist,” someone on a stage comes to mind. Someone with a podium and a microphone, slathering at the mouth with the Fire of the Spirit, hair gone wild with all the thrashing about he’s done, all in the name of igniting in his listeners the furious love of Christ. Cerebrally, I know that’s not the only way to share the faith, but my tiny human brain didn’t have room for any more concrete image… until a “Tiny dog! Tiny dog!” came into my family and made us a pack. Our “Siggie Baby” is not powerful or smart or eloquent. His evangelization of me was never about him; it was about showing me what I was worth to him.
That’s such a small way of reaching out, but it’s a genuine way that you don’t need a degree or an agent or a microphone to share. We can—no, we must show others that someone on earth thinks they are worth choosing, worth claiming in love, and worth heroic effort. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful, charming way to entice others into seeing that the Body of Christ is a pack worth joining? After all, don’t we Christians occasionally find ourselves perceived as slobbery, barking hors d’oeuvres?
So how do you dash out of your shelter and show others the vulnerable, bared-belly love of Christ? Lisa and I tend to bare the bellies of our imaginations: we write, thus inviting you into the very brains and hearts where we (try, at least) to make a home for Him. I took particular delight in writing the character Cate Whelihan in Don’t You Forget About Me specifically because she espouses so many things that I think are, well, not so good for us.
I love Cate because she’s part of my pack, and, just like so many real humans I love just because they’re loveable, not because they agree with me.
I know I need to do that more in my real life, outside of my head. I need to show, not tell, the people I love that I choose them, that they are part of my pack, and that they are worth heroic effort. If the Son of God can do that for me—for every single one of us—and I’m supposed to be following Him, then I kinda don’t have an excuse to keep it in all my head anymore.
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