Preschoolers and puppies don’t always mix well. In our house, though, they seem to mix just fine. My son, Emery, is 3-years old. He is so funny and loves playing with our dog, Max. Max is not quite one year old, so he is still a puppy and loves to mouth people when he plays. Every time he gets really excited or is playing a game he tries to catch you with his little mouth. This isn’t so bad right now, but that mouth is going to grow…and it’s going to hurt someday.
It never seems to fail that when I hear Emery saying, “Max! Stop biting me” that I walk into the room and Emery is shoving his hand in Max’s mouth. Emery, of course, looks up at me, “Mommy! Max is biting me!” Maybe I should respond by scolding the dog, but I’m not sure what else he’s supposed to do when Emery is stuffing his hand in his mouth. So I tell Emery, “Well, get your hand out of the dog’s mouth.”
I feel like we often put our hands in the mouths of dogs, so to speak, and start crying or asking for help when it bites us. We get so caught up in what we’re doing that we don’t realize we have put our own hand in the dog’s mouth until it starts to hurt. Then we wonder what happened. It is different for each of us, but we all do it.
For some, it is food. We start to gain weight, or we can’t lose weight, or we feel lethargic or whatever it may be. We don’t realize how poorly we’ve been eating until we stop feeling well. We don’t like what we see in the mirror or our pants don’t fit anymore. We are frustrated that it takes so much extra effort just to get through the grocery store. We then start to complain to our friends, parents, counselors…whomever…while holding a doughnut and a 700 calorie Venti sugary beverage. And we wonder, “why?”
For others it might be money. There’s a constant struggle to find a few dollars to get some bread or milk at the store. We’re always complaining that we have no money and our budget is so tight. We are living pay check to pay check and just don’t know what to do with ourselves. We complain with the lady next to us in line at the county assistance office about all of our financial struggles. But then our iPhone rings and we get mad because our professionally manicured acrylics got in the way of answering it while we were holding our cup of Starbucks in the other hand and our Oakley’s prevented us from seeing who the call was from. And we wonder where all of our money has gone.
Sometimes it is more serious. Maybe we struggle with sexual promiscuity. We’re going out with our boyfriend or girlfriend on a date. This time it will be different. This time we will have the self-control to not to go all the way on the first date…second date…or, if you’re values are like mine, before marriage. We can do this. But one thing leads to another. You find yourselves cuddling on the couch…all alone…and you’re both tired…and maybe a little lonely…and you end up going further than your promised yourself you’d go. And it happens with the next person…and the next…and the next…and you wonder, “Why do I keep doing this? How do I keep ending up in this position?” And when we end up pregnant, scared, and alone we wonder what on Earth we’re going to do because now I’m not the only one who could be potentially hurt by this. I’ve brought another person into it this time. And this little baby didn’t have a choice. And sometimes that’s enough to knock some sense back into us and get real about getting our hand out of the dog’s mouth.
Whether it’s food, money, sex, drugs, jobs, language, or any other issue so many of us struggle with, you have to start to wonder what’s going on. We can’t blame cookies, candy, ice cream and chips for existing in the grocery store for our poor health. We have to stop blaming McDonald’s, the schools, and commercials. We cannot blame society for raising greedy, entitled kids who would stand in line for food stamps before cutting off their iPhone plan or stop getting manicures. We need to stop blaming TV, music, and other media for our choices. It is important to start examining ourselves to determine if we have our hands in the dog’s mouth. What areas can I improve on in order to get the results I want or stop getting the results I have?
Hebrews 12:12-13 says, “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” There are many passages which compare our Christian lives as races or other athletic competition. We need to become strong, full of endurance to be able to finish and win. We can’t be lazy and expect to win the marathon…or even reach the finish line. There is effort that needs to be put in. In this particular passage, I believe the writer is encouraging us to find the areas of weakness in our lives. This doesn’t have to just apply to Christians! What areas in life do you really struggle with? Do you struggle with one of the areas listed above? Maybe it’s something else. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, you need to strengthen that feeble area before you can really move on. And once you move on, you need to be sure to create a path that isn’t going to make it difficult to get going…a path that would make it easy to get tripped up.
For anyone who has ever had knee problems, like I have…and probably much worse, you know that running on concrete is really painful. It is so much less than ideal. It’s even less ideal when I haven’t been running for a long time and I just go out and run a few miles. My knees KILL the next day. They hurt so much. Running on rocky terrain would feel terrible on my ankles. It is too easy to twist them up. Now, if I had a sprained ankle, I probably wouldn’t go running at all until it was healed. Then I’d want to strengthen it back up again with some walking or other exercise before tackling a race. And even after that, I’d probably be extra careful about what kind of terrain I choose to run. Do you see what I mean? If you struggle with pornography, it’s probably not going to be helpful for you to cruise the adult bookstore. If you’re a recovering alcohol or drug addict, it’s probably not going to be helpful for you to hang out in bars or with all of your other drunk or high friends all the time. If you struggle with overspending, Target is probably not your best friend. Do you get the point??
If our society lacks one thing right now, it’s accountability for our own actions and our own role that we have played to get where we are. We are a society full of people who consistently push their scarred and mangled hands into the dog’s mouth and wonder why it keeps biting us. We need to learn to take responsibility for the parts in our lives that are hurting and do as much as we can…as much as it is up to ourselves…to fix those areas so we can move on with our lives healed and whole people. As a Christian, I would say that God is the only one who can really come along side you and fulfill those needs for you. He can give you the courage, conviction, and strength needed to make the, sometimes difficult, right decisions. God can heal the broken areas, support them as you move on, and lead you on the right path. Our prayers and His words provide clear direction to avoid stumbling blocks. But I firmly believe the principle is for Christians and non-Christians alike.