If you read my column a few weeks ago, you’ll remember I recently obtained a puppy named Chewbacca — Chewy for short.
I got him last month from a fellow National Guard member, but I forgot to ask the sergeant one question: When was Chewy born?
So during my last drill, I approached the sergeant with that question.
At first the sergeant stammered. Then he blushed. Then he stuttered.
My finely honed chappy-sense was telling me there was some embarrassment surrounding the answer. So I reassured him. “Hey, most guys can’t remember their spouse’s birthday — I’m not the guy who would point the finger if you can’t remember the son-of-a-dog’s birthday.
“No chaplain, that’s not it,” he insisted.
The problem, I was realizing, wasn’t that he didn’t remember. The problem was that he was afraid to tell me the date.
The dog, he said with some trepidation, was born on June 6, 2006.
“You mean . . .?”
OK, maybe he didn’t say those exact words, but you could tell we were both thinking the same thing. “The chaplain has a ‘demon dog’!”
“There’s more,” he explained.
“His mother,” he said with a gulp, “was born on 9-11-01.”
My mind shot back to the events of the past month. I could recall watching Chewy act out every kid’s excuse and eat my daughter’s homework. I watched him move his bowels on our Turkish rugs. Nothing seemed safe from his dogged destructiveness.
He seemed to be Kujo reincarnated, but without the froth.
I went home and gathered my family in the darkened living room. “We might have a demon dog,” I whispered so as not to wake the sleeping dog.
My family stared back at me.
So I told them the story of the birth date and the mother’s checkered past.
“Wow,” my daughter remarked. “And today’s Friday the 13th.”
“Yup,” I added, “with Halloween approaching, I’m afraid we may be in for some bad juju.”
This dog dialogue put me in mind of a truer conversation. It was one Jesus had with his disciples when they encountered a blind man in the midst of a crowded city.
“Who sinned and caused this man to be born blind?” the disciples asked. They gave Jesus a choice: “Was it this man or his parents?”
“You’re asking the wrong question,” Jesus declared, “and you’re looking for someone to blame.”
While the disciples thought themselves pretty good at interpreting the blind man’s disability in terms of his lineage, Jesus was even better at spinning multiple-choice questions into essay tests.
“There is no such cause-effect here!” Jesus declared.
Then Jesus added the kicker: “Look instead for what the Creator God can do –and be energetically at work for the God who sent me here.”
Jesus is telling us that instead of judging people by such meaningless designations as birthdates, skin color, accents, clothes, shape, beauty or lack of beauty, we could join God’s team.
“What team?” you ask. The team that we’re all chosen to join — the team Jesus was talking about when he said we could be “energetically working alongside God.”
Like my rather quick assessment of my demon dog, the disciples had learned to assess this man by various numbers arbitrarily assigned to him on the calendar.
Hmm, I thought, maybe I need to look more closely at my dog, too. Perhaps, I’ve been barking up the wrong tree.