I have a Golden Retriever named Lucy. Lucy is pure joy and often makes me laugh. She’s a big, intelligent goofball. I’ve had a number of dogs over the years, and Lucy is definitely the most intelligent one I’ve had. Yet for all her brilliant moments, she is still a dog and I have to be on the lookout for things that will harm her.
Lucy and I take daily walks on campus. She loves to explore, and while I’m all for her running through the woods, there’s one particular area I’d rather she avoid. Although I don’t know the official name for it, this particular stretch of woods has spiky, porcupine-like balls that get stuck in Lucy’s long hair. Her fur wraps around the balls and it’s a nightmare to get them out.
Because I know of Lucy’s tendency to wander into this patch of woods, I’m usually on the lookout. However, Lucy recently beat me and raced into this section of woods on our walk. By the time I got there and called her back to me, she had over 20 porcupine balls stuck to her stomach, legs, and tail. They were lodged so completely she had a hard time walking back to our house.
What proceeded next was a long 45 minutes of me detangling and un-matting these horrors while trying to not pull Lucy’s hair. It wasn’t fun for me or her. What surprised me is that many of the spike balls broke open as I would go to pull them, and when they did, tons of sticky black seeds would come out and spread throughout her fur. After the fifth ball of yuck broke open, I had the thought that sin and trauma are often like this. We think it’s one problem that’s contained to a certain area, but when we go to untangle it, we find its impact is far more reaching than we realized.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been guilty of thinking my problems, my hurts, my sins were contained and wouldn’t affect others. But that’s not reality. We are people created for community and relationships. What I do, how I live, how I speak, and most importantly, how I love has a trickle-down effect that touches everyone in my circle. Because of that, I need to daily be on guard against the things that will hinder my relationship with God and tangle me in knots. And when those things do inevitably pop up, they need to be removed immediately, because delaying only makes it worse.
Sometimes though, we find ourselves in the middle of where we shouldn’t be and we need help to get rid of the yuck, and that’s okay. I could see what Lucy couldn’t and was able to reach places that were inaccessible to her. She needed me, and I was thankful I could help. But that’s the body of Christ. That is its role, to offer support, help, and comfort – to come alongside when someone else is overcome with hard, spiky balls of yuck and love them through it. And yes, it can take time, patience, and sometimes a little creativity to help heal what is broken, but it’s worth it.
Lucy hasn’t visited the area of woods that’s not good for her again. I think she learned a lesson. Prayerfully, we can too.
May we always find peace from remaining at our Master’s side rather than wandering off and doing our own thing, for it’s only in staying connected with Him that we stay safe and avoid the places we shouldn’t be.