Taking the back roads has its perks. Things like fewer stop lights, if any… scenery prettier than buildings and concrete… and just all around less boring…. I also like to think that they are shortcuts but often times they take just as long if not longer because of the hills and curves. Anyway, the other morning I had stopped to grab a cup of coffee and then began rushing myself to work through the not-so-shortcut back road shortcut. I came zooming over the hill only to come to a screeching halt….. coffee was sloshing, but no problem for me… the lid stayed tight.
I looked ahead to find why traffic wasn’t moving and there, sitting in the middle of the road, was a little bitty poodle. He was dirty and matted and had apparently decided that the line in the middle of the road was a comfy spot. Amazingly, that little animal was backing up traffic about 7 cars deep on both sides of the road. The school bus that was leading the line of cars opposite of me was honking the horn…. the dog just looked up… I wondered if possibly the dog was deaf but it seemed as if he heard the noise but just was too stubborn to move. Finally, after sitting in traffic for a bit, a lady a few cars in front of me hopped out of her and started walking toward the dog. Still the dog sat. The lady began yelling at the dog and clapping her hands. In essence, pushing the dog without touching him. The dog moved…. but only a small step… she now sat in front of the bus…. the lady continued clapping until the dog finally retreated to the middle of another road.
Traffic began moving along as normal once again. I noticed as I passed by that there was another lady who had maneuvered her way out of traffic to the side of the road to see if she could rescue this poor, little, confused, dirty, matted dog. She very gently and slowly walked up to the dog and though I couldn’t hear what she was saying, it was apparent that she was talking sweetly in that “you’re a good puppy, aren’t you” voice. You would think that this unattractive little dog would have been excited to hop in a warm car with a sweet person who obviously cared about its welfare, but instead it barked and growled and when the lady backed up a bit the poodle took off running into a tangled brush area just off of the road.
As I drove past I could see the look on the helpful lady’s face and I think it was one of disbelief or frustration or that of helplessness. She had done all she could do. The poodle made its own choice.
A part of me chuckled at the whole situation… a little dog holding up so much traffic. He got warnings and he even got sympathy but even after he begrudgingly moved, he accepted nothing from anyone and continued on the same path that he was already on. All I could think of was what a sad, little, stubborn (or maybe dumb) dog. And it was then that I think I got a little kick in my rear …. you know, I tend to be just like that little dog. I’ll sit in traffic (theoretically, not technically) … as dangerous as it might be… and a warning may push me to move a little bit, but even at times when I am completely moved, I may run back to the same old routine. Are ya with me?
I usually don’t make New Year’s resolutions but the New Year is a great time to begin a new routine. I heard on the radio yesterday morning that the average person will have abandoned their resolutions by day 18. But I have also heard that it takes 6 weeks to create a new habit… so pushing beyond day 18 for a little over another 18 days will create a changed person. I can imagine that if that poodle had gotten into that car, he would have been cleaned up, nourished and ended up looking like a cute, lovable little guy. That is a good ending to a bad situation. So what makes us stop before day 18 rolls around? Could it be fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of failing, fear of stepping out of what is comfortable?….
But you know something else… there were two women in that situation who were very important… the one who moved the dog and the one who tried to rescue the dog… Sometimes we don’t even realize we are in the middle of the road and we need a reminder, someone to move us. I think that is where God jumps in and does the motivating that gets us to move and provides the rescuing of our lives… maybe it is a friend or family member who urges us to get help, maybe it is an invite to church, maybe it is a song or story that is heard or maybe we look up and step out of ourselves and see the lives we are affecting (just like the backed up traffic). Then we find ourselves at a crossroad to an encouragement, a safe place, a hope…. a loving God…..or back to the same old tangled brush.
Maybe you are a like that little dog in the road…. possibly in a dangerous situation… maybe it is a habit that is killing you, a lifestyle that consumes you, a relationship that alienates you, an attitude that robs you, an ailment that embarrasses you, or a spiritual neglect that is calling you… Whatever it is, you don’t have to sit in the road or run to the tangled brush… you can hop in the car and be changed.
This can be the year to not make a resolution to change but to actually change. That’s my prayer.
13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
(re-posted from 2009)