I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Years celebration! With the new year upon us, I took a moment to reflect upon an experience I had right before the holiday break.
It had been a good day. Work had gone smoothly; my evening meeting had been canceled, and I was able to get home in time for dinner. My wife was happy to have me home earlier than usual, and the dog pranced around the house, barking to announce my early arrival. My wife and I enjoyed dinner while the dog patiently waited for attention. After dinner, the dog grabbed her frisbee and waited by the door for me to play.
We went out into the dark winter evening and I threw the frisbee into the neighbor’s yard. This was our usual routine. After I threw the frisbee, I noticed a dark shadow moving in our direction - it was someone walking their dog. I just knew my extremely friendly dog would run over to say hello on her way back from retrieving her toy.
“Thanks a lot!” said the dark figure in a somewhat angry, exasperated tone.
I recognized the person who was walking in the dark. It was a woman who strolled regularly and owned one of the meanest dogs I have ever met. It didn’t matter what side of the street she walked; her large black dog would suddenly lunge with a growl and snap its teeth every time the animal saw a person or pet. In fact, the owner could barely restrain the dog. I usually avoided her and her pet whenever possible.
“Sorry,” I replied. “I didn’t see you in the dark, or I wouldn’t have thrown the frisbee.”
As expected, my dog ran over to say hello and her dog snarled, snapped and lunged. Fortunately, my dog was quick on her feet and avoided the attack. She ran back to me, and I motioned for her to go inside to let the woman and her dog pass before we played any further. I opened the door and let my dog in as the woman spoke again.
“You know,” she snarled, “there is something called a leash law!”
I calmly closed the door after my dog was inside and then turned towards the woman and snapped, “You know... there is something called dog training!”
We stared at each other for a moment.
“Well!” she said, “have a nice day!” and turned and left.
I went inside, frustrated that I had not kept my cool. My good day had just been ruined. It wasn’t like me to respond in anger.
Several weeks later, I brought my dog to a dog park. There, I told the other owners how friendly my dog was and let her off the leash. The dog ran with wild abandon across the park, greeting other dogs like they were long-lost friends. She then picked up a toy football from the ground and ran to a nearby bench to chew on it. The other dogs decided the football was also a great new toy and moved to take it away. My overly friendly dog let out a guttural growl, showed her canines and proceeded to snap and snarl at the approaching dogs. I was shocked.
The other dog owners looked at me with chagrin and cast us out of the dog park because of my dog was vicious. I felt embarrassed and frustrated that the other dog owners judged my perceived my dog to be an "angry beast. "This was unfair.
Then I remembered my earlier encounter with the woman in the neighborhood. Our Lord teaches us in Matthew 7, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” This verse took on new meaning as I thought about my reaction and behavior with the woman. The same behavior I had condemned - was now mine. It was wrong for me to judge another person’s experience and feel as if my behavior was superior. It was a humbling event, and I am sure the Lord was using it to point out my self-centered reaction, which was not how the Lord would expect me to act.
As we move into 2023, may we ask the Lord to continually show us where He desires us to grow and how we can show compassion for others.
Thank you for your support,