By Galen C. Dalrymple
Once I began writing the "Lessons My Dog Taught Me" series, my Boxer -- the splendid Ramses the Great, Lord of the Nile -- taught me many things that I sought to emulate in my own walk with God. Yet Ramses also taught me what not to do. Please don't tell him. He would be crushed.
Ramses was a great lover of food. He ate just about everything -- dry dog food, canned dog food, carrots, apples, oranges, grapes, celery, popcorn, and all the things you would expect, like cheese, eggs, meat, bread, pizza, tapioca, and peanut butter! One of my favorite things to do was smear a little peanut butter into the corner of his mouth and watch him contort his face as he tried to lick it up.
If Ramses loved anything as much as food, it was our homecomings. He got so excited to see us that he would leap and twist, whining and running through the house like his stub of a tail was on fire. The problem was this: Ramses understood that if he loved to eat, and loved to see us come home, then it would be pure heaven to eat while we came home. So he would see us at the door and do his dancing routine, then, still huffing and puffing from his exertions, he would run outside and scoop up a mouthful of dry dog food.
Yet he was too excited to concentrate on his eating. So he would promptly start choking on his food until he hacked it up (no longer exactly "dry") onto the carpet. Sure, he would circle back later and "clean it up" by eating it a second time -- otherwise his "mom" would get royally angry with him -- but still, it was not the most sightly, not to mention hygienic, of practices.
While observing this ritual one day -- Ramses ran to the door, wiggling and leaping, ran outside to scoop up some food, ran back inside to enjoy our reunion and eat at the same time, then disgorged his food again onto the carpet -- I realized that I might learn something here about the spiritual life.
I too can grow so excited about things happening around me that I get distracted from the sources of nourishment God has placed in my life. And I too can get my mouth so "full" of the things of the world that there is no way for me properly to eat the Bread of Life.
In other words, feeding properly upon the Word of God takes time and concentration. It is not something that one can do while running hectically about. And if I would wait upon God to feed me, then I need to refuse the other "foods" of the world. One can starve for lack of food. But one can also starve because one's mouth is so full of what does not satisfy that there is no time or space for eating the Bread that nourishes us to eternal life.
I need to realize, as Jesus says, that "My food... is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4:34). I need to spend time in and with and living out the truth of the Word. Do you need to do the same?
Further installments in the "Lessons My Dog Taught Me" series will appear each Monday at the Evangelical Portal.
Galen Dalrymple pastors Vineyard Hills Christian Church, a non-denominational Evangelical church in the wine country of California. His daily meditations, Daybreaks, are received by readers all over the country.