A dog’s life

Bob Erskine, who is a cartoonist, recently featured a drawing in which a fortuneteller is sitting across the table from a dog.  Peering into the crystal ball before her, the fortuneteller says to the dog, “I see a series of short-term romances, a number of territorial disputes, some questionable food choices and a lot of naps.”

The quick identification with the dog’s fortune that the cartoon invites is, of course, at the heart of its genius.  On days when our lives seem overwhelmed by the humdrum and predictable, there are spiritual exercises and truths that can be of help:

One, be gentle with yourself.

Experiences of this kind are part of the normal course of life and they can be triggered by a variety of factors.  One cause can be fatigue.  When we are tired, it can be difficult to focus or find delight in a day’s activity.  Ironically, another cause can be the successful completion of a big project.  When we are engaged in a large, time-consuming effort it is not uncommon to hit something of an emotional vacuum on the other side of success.  Don’t be surprised to find that it will take some time to focus your energy on a new effort.

Two, honor those spaces.

It may be time to rest; give attention to some rather less demanding tasks; or evaluate your next steps.  The fallow moments in a transition are a gift in and of themselves.  Don’t fill them too quickly with new activity.

Three, give thanks.

Our lives move so quickly that it is often all but impossible to celebrate what we have accomplished or have been given.  Celebration isn’t a waste of time — it is an appropriate and even necessary step in remembering what we have accomplished thus far.  Thanksgiving, in particular, can help us to remember those times and places where — though we felt stretched or exhausted — God helped us to find a way forward.

It may feel like a dog’s life from time to time and the nap is not a bad idea.  But there are gifts in the humdrum that even a dog might not appreciate.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.