Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36
“What? No way. You didn’t!”
My pace quickened as bits and pieces of package wrappings and boxes appeared strewn on the floor at the top of the stairs.
Half an hour earlier I had returned home from a quick trip to the grocery store. Upon my arrival, Jake, my cocker spaniel, met me as I brought my purchases into the kitchen from the garage. Always hopeful that there was a treat nestled somewhere inside a grocery bag, he was quick to greet me. This time was no different, though his panting was heavy and he barked insistently for water in his bowl. “I’m sorry, buddy. I didn’t know it was empty.” I filled his dish and he immediately slurped up every last drop. Two bowls later, his thirst satiated, he paced around the kitchen, sloshing belly in tow, watching me put the grocery items on their shelves.
I had enough time to go upstairs and tend to some business tasks at my desk, then head out for an early evening gym class. That is, until I saw the trail of paper.
Walking into my home office, what I feared quickly became reality. Jake’s ultra-sensitive canine nose — and amazing reach for the height he had to stretch — had led him to a pile of Christmas gifts waiting to be wrapped, some of which contained chocolate … chocolate-topped toffee, chocolate-covered coffee beans, and good old plain chocolate.
Knowing the toxicity of chocolate ingested by a dog, I quickly picked up the strewn package labels from the floor to add up how many ounces he had ingested.
Twenty-six ounces of chocolate-laden goodies.
In a flash I went from loving dog mama to a madwoman. “Do you know how sick you could get? You could die!!” He sat quietly in a daze and stared at me. We had been through the routine countless times before. He had a mind of his own, and he was going to do what he was going to do.
“How many times do we have to go through this, Jake? When are you going to learn?” He looked at me and belched.
“You’re going to die! And I don’t care! I don’t care anymore!”
He plodded behind me and watched me pick up the litter he had left behind. Then he belched again. And again.
His stomach began to contract and expand. “Oh, no. No, no, no!”
Quickly I scrambled for a newspaper, a napkin, a kleenex — anything absorbent. But nothing would be enough to capture the contents of the canine Mount Vesuvius that erupted. For the next 20 minutes, I followed him around, heave after heave, until finally, spent and exhausted, he laid down.
Lord have mercy! What did I ever do to deserve such a disobedient little creature? I brought him into this home to love him and have companionship, and I ended up spending more time cleaning up his messes and trying to discipline him than I did enjoying him.
I’m tired of this behavior, I said to myself.
I know how you feel, I heard a familiar voice speak to my heart.
He’s still young and has a lot of life left in him. I’m going to be putting up with this for a while unless he learns to listen to me.
Yes, you will.
But what am I supposed to do?
I don’t know if you’re going to like the answer.
Well, tell me, I demanded. I’m at the end of my rope with him.
Love him anyway. I choose to love you, don’t I?
Inwardly I rolled my eyes. Way to go, Jake. You’re naughty, and the lesson is for me. But really, if I have such a hard time with a misbehaving dog, how much more difficulty would I have with a human being? I began to see the wisdom in the lesson God wanted to teach me.
God doesn’t rail against me the way I railed against my four-legged fur-baby, and I’ve made some pretty rail-worthy messes. He doesn’t isolate me to keep me from wrongdoing; He gives me free will. He doesn’t yell and throw a God-sized tantrum, nor does He condemn me for the sin while trying to lead me out of it. No, He loves me before I even do what I’m going to do, and He still chooses to love me all the way through it and after.
Later that evening after the fiasco with Jake, I was holding him. It was hard to stay mad at him. He’d had a hard day and suffered the consequences of his misbehavior. I cupped his little chin in the palm of my hand, looked him square in the eyes, and said, “Don’t you ever do that again.”
But I knew he would. And because I knew I would, too, I decided to love him anyway.
The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:9
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Pam Weyant traded the harsh Midwestern winters for the sunny South. When she is not spending her time as a freelance court reporter, you will find her loving up her adorable cocker spaniel, hiking, traveling, writing creative nonfiction, or working out. Her passion is sharing her story so others can join her in celebrating the freedom found in a redemptive Savior.