Cleavers, Christ, and Cutting Out Life’s Misadventures

It really was not what we had planned for a quiet Sunday afternoon on Father’s Day . . . but so it goes. Shortly before summer, my youngest son, Jon, got to pick out his very own dog . . . sort of.

With all of his siblings now out of the house, Jon wanted companionship, and after all, dogs are “man’s best friend,” so we went for it.

He saved his allowance, we studied the breeds together, and finally the day came.

Jon chose a Coton de Tulear and named her Abby. Abby is an itty-bitty black and white fluff ball of cotton-like hair, bundled with an enormously uninhibited amount of spontaneous energy . . . a fabulous fit for our fun-loving family.

Around the corner from our home is an area with a huge pond, loads of bushes, and big, burly trees. My son Austin has always loved taking the dogs out for adventures, and since he was visiting for Father’s Day, it was adventure time for the dogs.

(Let’s remember, we have one huge German Shepherd and Abby, who is smaller than Sherman’s ear, but though she lacks size, she’s stuffed with attitude and in charge.)

Austin took off with the dogs, and the rest of us settled in for a little nap. Not long after they left, we heard rustling in the backyard, the gate slammed, the hose turned on; by the sound of things, the adventure had fallen apart.

Evidently, Abby believed she could do anything Sherman could do, and she tried to hurdle a clustered mass of bushes layered with cleavers and burrs. Sherman cleared the spiky cleavers without looking back; Abby wasn’t so lucky and soared straight into the center of the bushes.

Abby’s breed is known for their cotton-like hair, which bonded to the spiky, tiny stickers like Gorilla Glue.

Literally, hundreds of them covered her little body. So for our Father’s Day evening, we spent four hours gently, sympathetically, sadly cutting the stickers out of her hair.

Cutting Out Misadventures

In so many ways, I am like Abby—and I believe many Christians are too.

  • We often leap into places we are not spiritually developed to handle. To make matters worse, we aren’t mindful of our frailties, our weaknesses, those blind spots that take years to refine.
  • Additionally, we are saturated with society’s messages and mind-set; almost all are in direct opposition to the Christian life.

Reframing our mind-set is a daily, purposeful, intentional process we must take one step at a time.

(Photo Courtesy of Unsplash)

Jon, who is mentally disabled, often shows me what a personal relationship with Christ is like. Just the other day while we drove to school, Jon was singing a hymn by following the words on his little iPad. He openly lifted his hands and just started talking to the Lord.

I almost pulled over for communion.

It was a sacred moment; not an intellectual “I have to pray ‘right’” prayer, but a time when Jon freely and personally talked with his Savior. I know a lot about God, I know a lot about Scripture, but a relationship isn’t based on knowledge acquisition and cold, hard facts alone.

When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, He replied,

You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

Good relationships are deeply personal and quite integrated, connecting both the brain and the heart. Jesus didn’t say, “You must know the LORD your God.” He said, “You must love the LORD your God.” That’s relational.

The first five words of the most popular passage in Psalm 23 are,

The Lord is my Shepherd.

For a moment, just say those five words . . . slowly . . . quietly . . . softly.


Maybe you need to say them a few times . . . meditate on them.

  • What feelings come up as you read those words?
  • Who is Christ to you?
  • Is He your shepherd?
  • Do you know His voice?
  • How close do you allow the Lord to get to your heart?

If the Lord isn’t your shepherd first and foremost, perhaps it’s because you have tried to reduce Him to a systematic set of rules to follow or a lucky charm you call on when life’s tough. Or maybe Christ is no more than a reason to gather with family at Christmas and Easter.

We have developed a loving relationship with our little dog, Abby. We want only what is best for her, which sometimes makes her quite mad.

Knowing Abby doesn’t mean we talk about her breed or the anatomy of dogs or expect her to do certain things to be loved. We love her and lead her as she grows, and we keep her far from the trail filled with cleaver bushes.

Even more so, Christ longs to love and lead us. Jesus wants to steer us away from harm and out of sticky circumstances and lead us down a path of rest, protection, and growth—even when that means allowing trials we may not like.

Let Me Hear from You

Since we’re together in this thing called life, will you let me know if Christ is your Shepherd? Are you listening to His voice? What part of a personal relationship with Him is hardest for you? Let’s connect on this throughout this next week.

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