Sometimes my dog does bad things. Kasey will get into the kitchen trash, take bites out of toilet paper rolls, and treats the kitty litter like an appetizer plate. (I’ve spent over $50 trying to keep her out of the litterbox!) She doesn’t like to be barked at or licked, and will fight any dog if they do. And I’ll never forget my horror and embarrassment when we rushed to the vet after she got into the bathroom trash when it was that time of month for me…
The moment I come home from work I know whether she’s been a good dog or if she (insert from list above). When she’s good she shoves her nose through the door to greet me, and when she’s bad she hides in her kennel. Which tells me that as she was doing it she knew it was wrong, but she did it anyway because she wanted to.
When she’s bad I get really frustrated and angry with her. You can’t really spank a dog, so she gets a short squirt of water from a spray bottle. My plants love it, but my dog, not so much. She tucks her tail, her eyes grow three times their usual size, and she acts like each spritz is a cruel and unusual punishment. One would think that after a round of “water torture” she would stay out of the gross, dirty junk—things that could kill her—and be content with the clean, healthy food and treats I give her.
Yet every day as I leave for work I say “be good”, and she looks at me, and I at her, and we both know she’ll be eating cat poop before I get to the next block.
Sometimes, she’s a very bad dog.
But I don’t love her any less.
One night, after we reconciled from her getting in the trash, I was petting her belly and thought, Maybe this is how God sees me? He gives me good things—and I take them greedily—but I also run to the “kitty litter” the first chance I get. Returning to bad habits and things that can harm me emotionally, spiritually, or physically.
Could drinking too much alcohol and overeating junk food be as bad as when Kasey gets into the trash? Things that seem to smell or taste good could actually cut or plug up her insides, leading to emergency surgery or much worse if I don’t get her help in time.
Maybe I can think of Kasey’s worst habit, eating cat poop, like having sex outside of marriage. I expose my body to disease (physical). If things don’t work out the breakup will hurt even more (emotional). And, because I believe sex should be saved for marriage, I end up hating myself and trying to hide from God (spiritual).
Despite knowing she’ll be in trouble, and having to live with stomach cramps or diarrhea for days, Kasey’s still a kitty litter addict. No door-buddy, water spritz, or heavy container can keep her away. I bet if she could read and I hung a sign that listed all the risks of eating cat poop and also read “Stay out. This means you, Kasey,” I would still find pebbles from the litter in her water bowl.
If I knew Kasey would never eat trash or get into the kitty litter again…Wow. I would have so much peace. At work I wouldn’t have to wonder what kind of dog I would come home to. And I would have saved about $500 in emergency vet visits this year…
A couple weeks ago Kasey was on probiotics, two rounds of antibiotics, and a special diet because somehow—I suspect the litter—the vet thought she got a parasite in her intestines. But, then she pooped out something that looked like a strip of plastic which means, at some point, she must have gotten into the trash again. (I’m going to try this trick so hopefully she’ll stop snacking on plastics and toilet paper when I’m not around.)
When Kasey fails, I’m not surprised. And I don’t think God is surprised when we fail either.
I’m not saying we should act like mistakes are just part of who we are, and get stuck thinking “It’s okay because God loves me anyway.” No no no.
God still loves us, yes, but we can’t say it doesn’t matter when we fail. Don’t stop trying to break away from the kitty litter and trash that can hurt you—or the people around you.
Dear self, keep fighting the good fight.