Log Dog Cannot Be God

September 8, 2012

On our early morning hikes through the Walnut Creek Open Space, we often encounter a delightful English lady with one or two dogs in tow. She is a volunteer at the local dog rescue shelter, and she just loves her pets. One lab mix we call “Log Dog” will carry a sizable tree branch all the way up the hill, sometimes dropping it at our feet in pride. Great fun. Anyway, for the first time in the years we have been acquainted, Dog Lady this week had along a Gentleman Friend who led Log Dog on the leash. My instantaneous thought was, “I hope he really likes dogs! That will be the way to Dog Lady’s heart!”

The oak studded foothills are a great sanctuary for theological reflection. I found my thoughts drifting to marriage, a common occurrence since I am organizing and writing a curriculum on marriage for use in PCUSA circles. I was thinking about this dear woman’s devotion to abandoned animals and how it is a prime focus in her life. Gentleman Friend may very well be similarly centered. Their mutual interest has drawn them together (much like music and math/science brought my husband and me together 41 years ago). Some people find their children are what draw them together or keep them together, even if the marriage itself is only so-so. But there is a caution to observe as we study marriage:

Dogs and even children, while the objects of care and compassion, are not adequate glue to hold two red-blooded adults together in the rough and tumble of holy matrimony. Mutual interests spark conversation and weave colorful threads in the marriage tapestry, but something more is needed when those same focal points become impractical, flee, leave for college, or die. Every couple that has experienced the Empty Nest knows an adjustment is necessary to fill the void left by departing college students. If their children were the center of their universe, the adjustment is much more difficult. If we have put the burden of wedded compatibility upon our dogs or our children, we have made gods out of them. Which leads to the most important observation to be drawn from Genesis 1 and 2:

In the Garden, God gave human beings many things to occupy their attention, plenty of provisions to sate their hunger, and meaningful work to engage their best imagination. But nothing in that list was designed to take the place of the One who created them. I could see Adam and Eve in deep conversation about the best way to exercise dominion in their world. And, thanks to Genesis 3:1-3, we can even see how they might process the choices put before them daily. But when their own satisfaction and (perceived) happiness became the highest value, usurping God’s place, they made their fateful mistake. And that mistake had an immediate effect on the intimacy and full partnership of their marriage (cf. Gen 3:16-20).

So the question on this Sabbath is whether we have placed too great a burden on those things that command our interest and attention. Log Dog is quite capable of carrying tree branches up the trail, and the amusement of watching him buoys the spirit. But Log Dog cannot bear the weight of his owner. What we know about our God, the Creator of all, is that he is the only One good enough and strong enough to carry us through marriage in the long run. Our attention upon the Lord, our reliance upon the Spirit of God for wisdom, power, joy, and mercy, and a daily walk in the Garden with our Creator are the glue that hold us together. Let us not let dogs (or children, or hobbies, or work) become our gods, but rather keep Christ at the center holding us together and imparting to us the ability to keep our covenants and fulfill the duties of married life.


2 Responses to “Log Dog Cannot Be God”

  1. Hi Mary,

    Thank you for this post. Really it is beautiful and I can relate to so much of it as I work with same-sex couples who work to make their marriages long and lasting.

    I have been reading your blog and so I know we disagree when it comes to whom has access to marriage, but I wanted to share with you my recent letter to the Layman explaining why I officiate weddings for same-sex couples.

    Thanks for letting me share: http://www.layman.org/LettersToTheEditor.aspx

    Rev. Mieke Vandersall

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