Does anyone remember the scene in Because of Winn Dixie, where Opal (played by Dakota Fanning) is sitting on the doorstep with her girlfriend (whose name escapes me), and the two are discussing the joys, tragedies, and general ups and down of life? Opal was making a habit of giving the townsfolk a Litmus Lozenge to try and coax them into talking about what was making them all so downcast. When Opal’s porch friend tasted the Littmus Lozenge, she spit it out and said with a sour face, “That tastes like not havin’ a dog!”
That’s how she really said it.
The Littmus Lozenge, as the legend goes, had the flavors of strawberry or root beer, but it also had a secret ingredient: sorrow. So whoever savored one of the candies tasted more than sweetness. They tasted the emotion of sorrow.
Well, I probably wasn’t supposed to laugh at that scene. Here was a small girl tasting sorrow and doing her best to put her feelings into words, and my response to her expression was to guffaw. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a movie theater, but rather in the privacy of my own home. What struck me funny though was the truth of her statement. Life truly does (sometimes) taste like not havin’ a daaawwwg. Life can be disappointing. Depressing. Sad. Boring. Joyless.
Of course, you’ll only understand the sentiment about not having a dog if you’ve ever owned a dog you liked. Or at least met a dog you liked. I’ve owned many. Tippy, my first dog, was a mutt. But a cute mutt. He was caramel colored, except for the tip of his tail, which was white. Part of the reason I know what not havin’ a daaawwwg feels like is that Tippy was mine – but not mine. He was just one out of several who my parents would eventually send to a good home. But for a time, I suppose he was mine, and that feeling, plus his feeling that I was his, was the best. Mutual like, or love, is always the best.
Since Tippy, I’ve had Twiggy, a Dachshund. Pebbles, a Basset Hound. Copper, a Sheltie. Tanker, a Rottweiler. And Annie, a Cairn Terrier. A few months ago, I acquired one of the best yet – Spurgeon, a Labrador Retriever.
I named him Spurgeon, after the “Prince of Preachers”, because I couldn’t name him Jesus – who names a dog Jesus? – but I wanted him to be like Jesus. Kind, noble, caring, gentle, gracious, merciful, understanding, loving, smart, hard-working … name a Christ-like character, and that’s what I wanted in a dog. And if I couldn’t choose Jesus, I might as well choose Spurgeon, after Charles Haddon Spurgeon, because he was the best male example of Christ-likeness that I could imagine. Plus he’s a fantastic writer.
So here I am, living life with Spurgeon – the pup, not the preacher. And it’s not a lot like living with Jesus. Some days, it’s not even a little bit like living with Jesus. Spurgeon, or Spurgey as we typically call him, started off pretty well. He’s never had a #2 accident on my floor. Only twice did he have a #1 accident. He was virtually house trained within the first few days, probably because he didn’t appreciate getting the bajeebers scared out of him by yours truly while he was doing his business. So he preferred to go outside, where he could tinkle in peace.
He’s smart. You can say, “Hey Spurgey! Go get Barney!”, and he will go fetch the purple, squeaky dinosaur that a friend purchased for him. You can say “Get stick,” and he will. You can say “Let’s go feed the bunny!”, and he knows exactly what you’re talking about. You can tell him to sit, and he does. He even sits on his own before you put his food bowl down, because why waste two more seconds by making your owner tell you to sit? Just sit, and the dog gets fed two seconds sooner. You can say “Get bird!”, and he will frantically search for one of the thousands of robins roaming the few acres surrounding Orchard House.
But you can also say “Get down”, and he is either deaf or has selective hearing, and suddenly, you find yourself mauled by a fifty pound pup. You can say “Spurgey, get off the couch, you know you aren’t supposed to be up there,” and he will get down. But then he will sneak over to the love seat, slither up the cushion, lay his head on the couch pillow, and look at you with big, brown eyes that say “I’ve just tasted a Littmus Lozenge and I need this love seat. Pweeeaaassseeee, can I stay?”
He terrorizes Annie and won’t let her come in from going to the bathroom. He jumps up on Mom, not caring whether she has Parkinson’s. He digs holes in my yard. He bites at the water coming from the sprinkler as if it’s his long lost brother who wants to play. He loves socks and underwear, if they’re dirty. He eats my irises and roses. He’s mouthy in a biting way, not a barking way. He hates the leash. The leash, to Spurgey, has the same effect as four Xanax pills. He goes from up to down in a second flat once he sees the leash. It crushes his soul and makes him believe he’s unloved or being disciplined for no good reason. He can’t take a car ride without worrying deep down in his black soul whether or not he’s being taken away from his home, compliments of his first traumatic, four hour car ride when he truly was taken away from his home.
But he does love. He often sits at my feet while I’m working and either chews on a stick or a bone, or sleeps. He’s learned to go at my pace, even though that pace is too slow for him. He’s learning to follow, instead of lead, because he knows he’s as lost as Judas Iscariot. He often comes to me for a simple pet, an ear scratch, or a chest rub (his favorite), because he needs love in return. He licks my feet, knee, or hand to convey he likes me even though I yell at him sometimes. He’s a companion. A joy, sometimes. Oh, most times. And a pain in my rump. Sometimes. But he’s ours and he’s doing his best to not make our life “taste like not havin’ a daaawwwg.”
What I’m getting at is this:
The girl who expressed sadness with the words “not havin’ a daaawwg” spoke from one side of the fence. Having a dog is great. Not having a dog is also great. What seems like the best life is so often (in our minds) located on the other side of the fence. It’s greener over there, we are convinced. And if it really is awful on our side, perhaps we should look at how to safely jump the fence. I’m not saying we never try to better our lives. But as Americans, I am willing to wager that usually, our problem isn’t that we are living such barren lives. It’s that we are discontent with the good, fruitful life we have right in our own front yard.
What a difficult balance to try and achieve … knowing when to be content, and knowing when to have dreams, goals, and aspirations. We should always have something we are working toward, I think. I can’t imagine a life without any dreams, whether those dreams be perfectly practical or a bit on the, well … dreamy side. But perhaps there’s a balance, and perhaps we can have it all — contentedness and dreams, both. Maybe we can be legit content with where we are, yet aspiring to be greater, do more, do better, and therefore share more, whether it be more of ourselves, more of Christ, or more of our monetary profits.
If I were to give you a Littmus Lozenge, what would it make you say? What is your sorrow? What are you lacking? Or what do you perceivably lack? Maybe that thing, that person, that proverbial daawwwggg you so desperately desire is on the other side of the fence. Or maybe it’s right in front of you, but you’re not noticing it or being grateful for it. Either way, two things are good to keep in mind:
First, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Each set of life circumstances comes with its own problems and joys. If something we want hasn’t been given to us, it’s likely not good for us.
Second, we should keep our lives free from love of money (or dawwwgggs), and be content with what we have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~Hebrews 13:5 (parenthetical comment mine)
There’s nothing wrong with having ambition, aspiration, and goals. But while man plans, there’s still a sovereign God up above who loves us deeply, is intent on giving us the best (Eph. 1), and has the final say in everything.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. ~Proverbs 19:21
**photo credit: Heather Miller on Unsplash.com