Monday, April 6, 2009

From Renita

The Scent of Jesus: Lessons from a Dog

As many of you know, we had security issues in Liberia that caused us to build a high wall around our house and get some dogs to sound the alarm. Within these walls were two gates that opened only from the inside. When people came to visit us (multiple times times each day), they knocked on the gate, the dogs barked and growled, and one of us would go to see who was there. If one of us went outside the gate, someone else would have to close the gate behind us, and then we would have to knock on the gate to get back in.

One day, upon returning from a community meeting, I realized that when I knocked on the gate for someone to let me in, the dogs did not bark. I assumed that I was probably talking to someone next door on my way to the gate and the dogs must have heard my voice. The next day, I intentionally was quiet on my way to the gate and knocked. Again, silence, except for the whining of Nikki who knew it was me and couldn't wait for me to come in (her whining, I knew, was an indication that her tail was wagging her entire body as she waited to greet me). So, I then deduced that they must recognize the way I knock. I wondered if I could fool them into barking at me. Time for an experiment.
The next day I snuck up to the gate and pounded on it very hard. Nothing-- except Nikki whining with excitement. The next day I knocked very gently, halfway down the gate, as if I was one of the many children who knock. Nothing-- except, well you get the point. Try as I might, I could not fool Nikki or Max into sounding the alarm when I tried to disguise my approach.

How did they know it was me? It seems clear to me now that in the few seconds it took for me to arrive at the gate, they were able to pick up my scent. Within a couple of seconds. Even though I didn't use a consistent shampoo brand, soap, or perfume. Even though I perspired more days than than others. The dogs recognized my scent from the other side of a gated wall. I find that amazing.

Last week I spent four days on a silent retreat – it’s one of those times that I have no other role than being a child of God. I’m not a wife, mother, daughter, employee, sister, church member, etc. I use that time to crawl up in God’s lap and enjoy Him. During my retreat, I read the book, Hearing God by Dallas Willard. The book talked about learning to recognize the voice of God in our daily lives, and as I reflected on this, I remembered our dogs and how they not only learned my voice, but learned my scent. If two tick-bitten mutts in Liberia could discover the scent of a Canadian in seconds, how much more should I be able to pick up the presence, the voice, the scent of my Lord and Savior, in whose image I am created? So, how did these dogs do this? Did they work some formula? Set out to study my scent? Practice? No, the obvious reason is that they were around me every day. They learned my scent.

I want to learn more than the voice of Jesus; I want to be close enough to pick up His scent.

In the quiet of my retreat, I smiled at the lessons Nikki and Max had for me. I also reflected on the pure joy that our dogs expressed whenever we returned home. Anyone who has owned a dog knows this. It didn’t matter whether we had been gone all day and they had been tied up or whether we had been gone for five minutes. They were always excited to meet and greet us, almost knocking us over with their affection. Henry Scougal, in 1677 wrote in The Life of God in the Soul of Man, that “the worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” If the object of my love is Jesus, how do I greet Him? To be honest, it’s often with a long and tired face, hung up on the burdens of the world, the heaviness of the yoke I have taken on. I want that to change. I want to recognize His scent before He gets to the gate, and knock Him over with delight the moment I can get to Him.

In short, I want to be more like my dog.

1 comment:

Aunt Annie said...

Renita, What good thoughts! Thanks for sharing. From you, I too, have learned a lesson from your dogs. Blessings, Anamarie