I have a love/hate relationship with the Church. God either has a sick sense of humor, likes to mess with me, or is trying to teach me something. The only logical explanation is that God is trying to teach me something I don’t really want to be taught. But why Them of all people? Aren’t they the problem to begin with?
Cesar Millan says: You don’t get the dog you want. You get the dog you need. Bear with me, I’ve watched way too much Dog Whisperer lately.
On the show, there’s always these desperate owners who’ve adopted pocket-sized dogs who take over the entire family. They get them because they are cute. They dress them up, treat them like children. As a result, the dogs become 13-ounce Hitlers who dictate how the entire household functions. They bite them for getting up too quickly, for running the vacuum, for reaching to pet them too fast. They even bite the children as the owners look helplessly on, hostages in their own houses. Other dogs become fearful, anxious, and neurotic over normal sights and sounds. They hide under the bed and pee on themselves when the doorbell rings.
It’s exhausting. We can’t even go on vacation. Something has to change the owners weep into the camera. If this doesn’t work, we have to put them down.
But it’s never the dog that’s the problem. It’s always the owners. The dogs only reflect their owner’s dysfunctional state of mind. They take over the situation because the owner became weak and somebody had to run the show.
Cesar rehabilitates most of the dogs within a few minutes using only his calm, assertive energy. The dog realizes here is somebody who allows them to be a dog, so they surrender. The hard cases, he has to take away to his Doggy Rehab center for a few months. They always come home a completely normal dog, but some would revert back to their dysfunctional behavior as soon as they come back to their old stomping grounds because it’s not the dog that was the real issue—it was the owner. The dog changed. The human didn’t. Even though the owners practiced Cesar’s methods and moves, it was just mimicry. They hadn’t internalized that their dog was just a dog, that it needed to be just a dog and not a furry human in order for the relationship between pet and owner to be a balanced one.
I avoided the Church for so long. It was a dangerous place for me to be spiritually. It drove me away from God. It made me bitter and angry. I thought I had recovered, away from the source that had wounded me. I thought I was ready to return—that I had learned the difference between true Faith and the sharp fangs of pious religion that struck whenever I tried to embrace it. But, I wasn’t. You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks.
But maybe it wasn’t the fault of the Church. Maybe I had dressed the Church up like it was God, treated it like it was the author and perfecter of my faith. Let those false beliefs take me hostage in my own life— even to the point where I let it wound my own children, while I stood helplessly by. I kept leaving then coming back, expecting a different experience, but every Church was still just a Church, holding up a mirror that showed what it looks like when you make an imperfect institution, filled with imperfect people, God.
Maybe, I got the Church I needed, not the one I wanted: one that cornered me in my own life and forced me to decide between putting it down completely or to finally wrestle control from it’s mouth for good–control it should have never had in the first place— and lay it back at the feet of The One to whom it had always truly belonged.
“Denial, they say, stands for— Don’t even notice I am lying. Human beings are the only animals who are happily lied to by our own minds about what is actually happening around us.”
― Cesar Millan