The tale that wags happiness

Published 6:06 pm Friday, August 9, 2019

By Nathan Decker

It is not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.”

– Epictetus in Enchiridion

Dogs know how to be happy. Scared or threatened, then bark. Excited or happy, then smile and wag your tail. Get left at home alone? Well, now we have a choice. We could chew up master’s shoes, or we could just take a nap … either way, we will greet her at the door with such a warm welcome she’ll forgive all the fuss and mess. Dogs can be so ugly they are cute. It truly is a dog’s life.

Like our dogs, Jesus tries to teach us joy, fulfillment and meaning. As broken human beings, we tend to bury how we feel, hold on to unhealthy thoughts, and forget that we are all a part of the same pack. Dog’s don’t. Dogs express how they feel in the moment. Jesus said to let our “yes be yes, and our no be no.” If we bury anger in our hearts, thorny thoughts grow from these maddening seeds. Hiding our love only leads us to loneliness. Feelings are not good or bad. Some feel better than others, but all feelings are God-given gifts to help us navigate the world around us. Maybe we should call them emotional nerves instead of feelings. Ask any dog lover, and they will gladly interpret how their dog is feeling because unlike us, the dogs aren’t going to hide their emotions.

Dogs will forgive almost anything. It is as if they truly understand the whole “turn the other cheek” thing along with attaining a new level of freedom in forgiving others. Humans are the only creature who not only creates soap operas, but even enjoys reading, watching and instigating such mayhem. Our crates, our cages, our leashes are self-inflicted knots in how we poorly relate to one another. We have become overly sensitive with our ease to take offense while at the same time developing calloused apathy toward one another. Forgiveness cures this illness and leads us to living with one another instead of tolerating each other.

Humans, like dogs, are pack animals. We are genetically herd animals. We are meant to be social. This, however, gets sinfully misconstrued into tribalism. We should see ourselves as a part of the beauty of the diversity of the human race. Instead, we utilize this same blessed diversity as a means of division in hyphens, colors, nationalities, beliefs, and languages. Our faith teaches us to be one body with many parts. Our faith teaches us to connect and be community.

Dogs know how to be happy. Perhaps God gave us our four-legged friends to remind us of just how simple it is to enjoy, belong and have purpose. When we know who we are and we are comfortable with ourselves, it becomes easier to get along with others. When we offer forgiveness instead of retribution, bridges can be mended. When we come together in love rather than in some movement of us vs. them, we can truly be happy. So … chase after your own tail. Take a long afternoon nap. Just snuggle up next to someone you can trust to wrap their arms around you in a hug. Love one another like your dog loves you. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

His anger lasts for only a second,

but his favor lasts a lifetime.

Weeping may stay all night,

but by morning, joy!”

– Psalm 30:5