Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Green Dragons and Baby Gates {Steinway Parable}

It's hard to believe, but Steinway, my Lhasa Apso, has been gone three years. As I have been remembering him lately, this story from apartment life in our first year back from the mission field has come to mind.

Steinway’s nemesis lives in our hall closet and emerges once a week or so for half an hour of terror. This green dragon, though chained to the wall, roars through our home devouring everything in its wake, and Steinway believes puppy-dog tails are its favorite food. Whenever it growls to life, consequently, he looks at me reproachfully and then scurries frantically from one hiding place to another. Just as he finds one that seems safe from the dragon’s clutches and starts barking at it with all the bravado he can muster, it approaches his new nest and he yelps and scampers to find a better one. From the looks he gives me, the most perplexing aspect of this trauma seems to be that his mommy would do such a thing. After all, I’m the one who lets it out, holds its leash, and apparently sends it chasing after him. If I am truly mistress of this home and love him, what am I thinking??!!!

You will understand, though Steinway receives my explanations with a blank stare, that I have a purpose greater than his own comfort: specifically, the cleanliness of the home we share. Also, because I do hold the reins to this beast, I will do everything in my power to keep it from swallowing his precious tail. And since it is only a vacuum cleaner and not a living creature, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be successful in the attempt, unless in Steinway’s desperate efforts to escape he crosses my path before I can avert the impending doom.

So what’s a mother to do? Well, this mother finally decided to throw him in the dungeon. Steinway, that is, not the vacuum cleaner. And actually it’s not a dungeon, just our bathroom, but from the way he cries and carries on you’d think it was the Pit of Despair, where years of his life will soon be sucked away.

Granted, it is a small, windowless room with nowhere to run around, but I do herd all his toys, his water bowl, and his favorite pillow in there before putting him in. What’s more, I lock him in with the baby gate rather than shutting the door, so he has a full view of Allen’s flowers on the balcony (and where his enemy is at all times).

That bathroom is the safest possible place for him at those moments, and the barrier he hates is the very thing that keeps him out of danger. What Steinway cannot understand, however, he will not trust. Given his history with me, since I’m the one who put him in the room and provided all manner of good things for his enjoyment, he could settle down on his pillow with his wooly-man and wait quietly until I opened the gate again. He could even stand at the gate and watch, barking from his impregnable fortress (barking without rebuke being a rare treat) or just marveling at my control over the beast, allowing it “thus far and no farther.”

Instead, he stands at the gate and cries to get out. And cries. And cries. It breaks my heart to hear him, and doesn’t do much for my ears, either, but it avails him nothing. This time, persistent, plaintive pleas do not change the outcome. Though I love him, my purpose to clean the carpets remains unchanged; because I love him, my purpose to protect him by confining him in a small space and unpleasant surroundings also remains unchanged.

Finally, the ordeal ends and I release him from prison. Invariably, he proceeds to check out the apartment. Did that monster eat anything important, like his food bowl? He pauses to sniff the air. Then he snorts:  Hmph. Smells okay. After assuring himself that all is again well and the danger has passed, he comes to me and burrows his head alternately in my lap and hand, which being interpreted means, “Pet me. NOW.” A disgusting display of mutual affection and a cookie follows. Doesn’t he deserve a reward for being so brave? After all, that dragon could have eaten his tail.

Lord, even though I laugh at some of the things my dogs do, at how foolish and slow of heart they sometimes are to understand, they are all too often more of a mirror than I'd like to admit. Someday, perhaps, I'll trust You so that I'll lean into the adventure of the dragons that roar and threaten me. Someday, perhaps, I'll grow bold and brave in the knowledge that You hold the reins of every danger, and no painful circumstance can touch me unless You in loving wisdom allow it. If I being evil desire so to protect my furry friends, how much more will You look after Your beloved child? Today, though, mostly I squirm away from the threats and yelp with fear and anxiety more than with actual pain. Lord, I trust You; I long to trust You more; help my distrust, for the sake of Jesus the Overcomer. Amen.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 103:19, NIV

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