Moses and Zipporah joined our family several years ago now. Morning walks are a ritual, and I can expect to find two eager faces watching me eat breakfast through the door to the screened porch. When I finish and begin to lace up my walking shoes, they begin barking and running in circles with excitement. Some walks are more exciting than others. Squirrels and cats provoke frantic barking and tugs at the leashes that I have to restrain.
One morning this past week, the walk included discovery of hidden treasure. Why anyone would drop or toss a large, plastic-wrapped stick of venison sausage in the dried leaves along the side of the road where we walk is a mystery. When Moses found his treasure, I thought he had unearthed another dead squirrel and hurried to relieve him of the body before he could eat it. What I discovered instead was a fat sausage with a greasy plastic cover that made getting a grip on it impossible. I lost the tug of war and was unable to pry his jaws open to take the sausage away. Moses patiently opposed me and refused to drop the sausage.
Frustrated and in a hurry, I began walking towards home, for the first time hoping without success for a squirrel or cat alert that would prompt Moses to bark and drop the sausage. As we approached the house, I realized I could not let Moses off the leash as usual, or he would simply run away down the hill with the sausage. I feared the plastic and the sun-ripened meat would make him sick. Opening the gate, I let the dogs into the back yard as usual then walked into the screened porch and closed the door. I managed to let Zipporah off her leash with one hand. Then I turned to Moses, prepared for another tug of war.
He had dropped the sausage! I managed to grab it and pitch it over the fence, thinking that was the end of the adventure. Moses, however, planted himself by the chain link fence, growling at Zipporah each time she approached, an unusual confrontation probably prompted by the smell of the sausage just beyond the fence. Worried he might jump the chain link fence, I let myself out of the garage and searched through the dead leaves and fallen trees outside the fence, praying I would find the sausage and no snakes. When I found the chunk of meat, I learned the forbidden treasure was venison sausage, which I promptly dumped in the trash can. My hands were greasy and, dirty, and I had worked up a sweat. Tough love is also tough for the giver.
Moses was not happy with the loss of his giant treat. I regretted relieving him of his unexpected prize, but also did not want him to make himself sick. It would have been much easier to just let him have the sausage. I thought about the times I had to disappoint my sons by denying them some treasured item or experience. Then I thought about the times I had been the recipient of God’s tough love. It is no fun being on the receiving end either. I thought about the times God has gently denied some item or experience I thought was indispensable, until I gained the wisdom to understand the treasure was no prize. Tough love is one of those hard blessings that sometimes come to us in this life, love in a form that can be hard to recognize, but is love nonetheless.
Grace and Peace,